Obama Attends Climate Change Meeting in Singapore

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SINGAPORE (AP) -- President Barack Obama and nearly two dozen fellow leaders from Asia and Europe agreed Sunday that next month's much-anticipated international climate change meetings will be a way station -- not the end point -- in the difficult and so-far elusive search for a new worldwide treaty to tackle global warming.

The 192-nation climate conference beginning in three weeks in Copenhagen had originally been intended to produce a new global climate change treaty. More recently, it has become increasingly clear that wouldn't be the case. But the endorsement of that conclusion by Obama and fellow leaders at a hastily arranged breakfast meeting here on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific summit served to dampen any remaining expectations for the December summit.

"There was an assessment by the leaders that it is unrealistic to expect a full internationally, legally binding agreement could be negotiated between now and Copenhagen which starts in 22 days," said Michael Froman, Obama's deputy national security adviser for international economic matters.

The prime minister of Denmark, Lars Loekke Rasmussen, the U.N.-sponsored climate conference's chairman, flew to Singapore to present a proposal to instead make the mission of the Copenhagen meeting a "politically binding" agreement, in hopes of keeping the process alive. A fully binding legal agreement would be pushed down the road, possibly for a second meeting in Mexico City, Froman said.

Obama backed the approach, cautioning the group not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good, Froman said.

The two-year process of crafting a landmark new treaty has been marked by distrust between rich, developed nations like the U.S. and those in Europe and poorer developing nations such as India, Brazil and China.

The developed nations hold that all countries must agree to legally binding targets to reduce heat-trapping gases. Developing countries say they can make reductions a goal but not a requirement, and want more money from wealthy nations to help them make the transition.

A major bill dealing with energy and climate, and backed by Obama, is bogged down in the U.S. Senate, giving the U.S. president little to show at the Copenhagen gathering.