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October 20, 2009

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Britain calls on world leaders to hammer out climate deal

BRITAIN urged world leaders yesterday to turn up in person to salvage a United Nations climate deal in Copenhagen in December, as Australia and India outlined steps to rein in their greenhouse gas emissions.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown told representatives of 17 major emitters meeting in London that success was still within reach for the 190-country meeting in Denmark from December 7 to 18, up to now intended as a gathering for environment ministers.

"Over the remaining weeks to Copenhagen and in the two weeks of the conference itself I will work tirelessly with fellow leaders to negotiate a deal," Brown said.

"I've said I'll go to Copenhagen, and I'm encouraging them to make the same commitment," he said at the two-day talks that ended yesterday. "We must frankly face the plain fact that our negotiators are not getting to agreement quickly enough."

Talks are bogged down in disputes between industrialized and developing countries over how to share out curbs on emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels. Just one week of formal talks remains in Barcelona in early November before Copenhagen.

The two-year UN talks launched in Bali, Indonesia, in 2007 are particularly stuck on how big carbon cuts recession-hit rich countries should make by 2020, and how much they should pay developing countries to fight global warming.

Among signs of action yesterday, Australian Climate Minister Penny Wong said the government would bring carbon trade legislation back to parliament on Thursday and will demand a vote on the controversial laws before the end of November.

The opposition on Sunday demanded changes to the scheme, already rejected once by the upper house to avert a second defeat that would give Prime Minister Kevin Rudd an excuse to call a snap election.

The government, which is ahead in opinion polls and could benefit from an election, wants to start carbon trading from July 2011, putting a price on greenhouse gas and helping curb emissions in one of the world's highest per capita polluters.

The Australian scheme will cover 75 percent of Australian emissions from 1,000 of the biggest companies and be the second domestic trading platform outside Europe. Companies will need a permit for every ton of carbon they emit.

An Indian newspaper said Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh wanted New Delhi to accept curbs on the country's rising carbon emissions, dropping insistence that they should hinge on new finance and technology from rich nations.

"We should be pragmatic and constructive, not argumentative and polemical," The Times of India quoted Ramesh as writing in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.


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