World

At UN, climate ministers remain deadlocked before next major summit in December

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Climate ministers and top negotiators from dozens of nations remain deadlocked over how to cut greenhouse gases less than three months before the next major international climate summit.

The U.N.'s top climate official told a high-level gathering Saturday that the key issues "are frankly in a deadlock" and the official negotiating text is bogged down by national interests.

But Christiana Figueres said some governments are trying to "rebuild the sense of trust in the process and rekindle the commitment to deliver" some agreements and funding.

"Governments have realized this year that you don't build tall buildings without laying the foundations, unlike last year when they tried to build a very tall building without laying the foundations," she later told The Associated Press.

Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa, who will preside over the December summit in Cancun, told 45 climate ministers and top negotiators that any agreement will require "close guidance from the highest levels of government."

The meeting here helped to "show that there are in fact areas, many areas, in which we can reach a significant agreement that would allow the possibility of initiating programs, projects and very concrete actions against climate change in all countries," she later told AP. Many of the participants, including Figueres and Espinosa, noted the predominance of women in leading roles, which helped to set a friendly tone.

South Africa's environment minister, Buyelwa Sonjica, said all nations expressed a belief that there should be "an outcome in Cancun and a significant one." She said there were better odds for that to occur than there were at last December's summit in Copenhagen because of a negotiating text that includes a fair number of issues "that we can find consensus in."

Saturday's gathering followed a week of press conferences and other meetings on climate and environmental issues, including two days of talks among major economic powers on ways to move ahead in slowing and coping with climate change.

A lead U.S. negotiator, special climate envoy Todd Stern, said earlier in the week that among those attending the 17-nation talks, "no one is expecting or anticipating in any way a legal treaty to be done at Cancun this year."

The annual U.N. climate conference will be hosted by the Mexican resort Nov. 29-Dec. 10.

The U.N. talks are meant to produce a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol, whose relatively modest emissions reductions expire in 2012. The U.S. is the only industrial nation not to have ratified the Kyoto pact.

In Cancun, delegates from some 190 nations will seek to break the stalemate over a legally binding agreement on reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases blamed for global warming.

"The big bargain that we expected in Copenhagen would probably not be possible," Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim told AP, adding that other small gains might be achievable.

The last summit in Denmark's capital produced a nonbinding "Copenhagen Accord" that President Barack Obama and several other world leaders cobbled together at the 11th hour.

The voluntary agreement has since prodded 85 nations to say they will take voluntary action to rein in emissions. It also included the first global agreement to keep the Earth's temperature increases below 2 degrees C (3.6 F) above preindustrial levels and head off the worst effects of heat-trapping gases — as recommended by the U.N.'s Nobel Prize-winning international scientific panel studying global warming.

But the emission reductions envisioned in those pledges fall far short of what researchers say is needed to keep the atmosphere from warming dangerously through this century, leading to shifts in climate, worsening droughts and floods, rising seas and other damage.

Despite the U.S. deadlock over climate legislation to limit emissions, the Obama administration has pledged to reduce U.S. emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, through executive orders and a continuing push for the legislation.

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Associated Press Writer Ana Elena Azpurua contributed to this report.