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UN talks to end without deal on crucial issues

UN climate talks ended in a whimper yesterday without progress on the pressing issues of emission cuts for wealthy nations or financing for the developing ones, both of which are crucial to reaching a global warming pact.

Negotiations have been deadlocked for months and delegates have raised doubts whether a new climate pact to rein in greenhouse gases can be reached by the time world leaders gather in Copenhagen in December. The pact would replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

Rather than addressing the tough issues, UN climate chief Yvo de Boer said late Thursday that the failure by rich countries to agree on ambitious emission cuts and billions of dollars in financing to help poor countries adapt to climate change has increased the distrust between the two sides.

"The stark reality out there is that unless we see an advance on the key political issues, it is very difficult for negotiators in this process to continue their work in good faith," de Boer said.

Even before the talks ended Friday, environmentalists including the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace were already criticizing the United States, the European Union, Australia and Canada for failing to deliver on the key pieces required for any new climate pact.

"We can't continue to waste time on missing political mandates," the WWF's Kim Carstensen said. "My concern is that without political clarity from capitals on issues like finance (and) emission reduction targets ... the next meeting in Barcelona will be another talk shop without the political breakthroughs we need."

Oxfam senior climate adviser Antonio Hill said a continued lack of "political will from rich country leaders" meant there was no movement on the emissions reduction targets that could help safeguard the world's poorest people.

"The millions of people facing greater floods, droughts and failed harvest after failed harvest will be the real losers if the US, Canada, EU, Japan and Australia continue as blockers to the UN negotiations," Hill said.

In the United States, which rejected the Kyoto Protocol because it exempted countries such as India and China from obligations, a bill that passed the House of Representatives would reduce emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels - about 4 percent below 1990 levels - by 2020. The Senate is considering its own bill that would cut emissions 20 percent.

Only Norway announced a new target at the meeting, saying it would reduce by 40 percent, up from a previous commitment of 30 percent, by 2020.

Developing countries have said they want to do their part but have refused to agree on binding targets and want to see more ambitious cuts by the industrialized nations. They won't sign any deal until the West guarantees tens of billions of dollars in financial assistance.


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