Global climate change talks at a 'dead end' because of US, China reluctance: Indian minister

BEIJING (AP) — The chance of a climate change agreement this year is remote because the United States and China are unwilling to make more commitments during the talks, India's environment minister said Sunday.

The last U.N. conference on climate change in Copenhagen last December was seen as deeply disappointing as a deep rift showed between industrialized nations and developing countries.

The toughest issues — cutting greenhouse gases, creating a system of financial aid from rich to poor countries, and measuring both — still need consideration. The next major U.N. climate conference is in Cancun, Mexico, in December.

"The prospect of a breakthrough in 2010 is very, very remote," Jairam Ramesh told reporters in Beijing after finishing talks with his Chinese counterpart. India is the world's fifth largest emitter of greenhouse gases and one of the largest players in securing any deal.

"We've reached virtually a dead end" with neither the United States nor China — the world's top two emitters of heat-trapping greenhouse gases — unwilling to make any firm commitments, Ramesh said.

A U.N. panel of scientists says greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide — emitted mostly by burning fossil fuels for electricity and transportation — are causing climate change that threatens potentially catastrophic environmental damage such as floods, droughts and rising sea levels.

The Copenhagen conference failed to reach a new legally binding treaty after two years of U.N.-sponsored negotiations.

Instead, it ended with a political declaration called the Copenhagen Accord, brokered at the last minute by President Barack Obama, but many of the 190 or so countries that attended were unhappy with it and some dismissed it outright.

China's top climate change negotiator, Xie Zhenhua, twice shouted and thumped the table when the agreement was signed, Ramesh recalled Sunday. Obama, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao were all in the room during the outburst.

"'What did he say?'" Ramesh quoted Clinton as saying.

"'He's congratulating us,'" Obama said, according to Ramesh.

Ramesh said he never found out what Xie was shouting about. "I think he was saying the Americans were not fulfilling their part of the bargain. That's my guess," Ramesh said.

The United States emits about a fifth of all the world's greenhouse gases. China has edged past the United States as the planet's biggest greenhouse gas emitter mainly from fossil fuel burning, but emits far less than the U.S. on a per-capita basis.

Last week, some 40 nations agreed to take individual steps to fight global warming but made little progress during a three-day meeting near Bonn, Germany toward a new international climate change treaty.