COPENHAGEN — Environment ministers from 44 key countries gathered here on Monday for a two-day closed-door meeting aimed at preventing embarrassing failure at next month's UN conference on global warming.
Delegations included major greenhouse gas-emitters, including China, the United States, India and Brazil, as well as several island nations and African states that are among the poorest in the world and most vulnerable to climate change.
The December 7-18 talks aim at reaching a post-2012 deal for slashing greenhouse-gas emissions and easing the impact of likely droughts, floods, storms and rising seas unleashed by disrupted weather systems.
But after two years of haggling, the 192 members of the UN's Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) remain badly deadlocked.
"We are going to discuss the difficult subjects that remain, such as financing and the goals to be reached," Danish Climate Minister Connie Hedegaard told AFP last week.
The meeting is "the chance to really get to the heart of the discussions, including the really difficult issues because we don't have much time left," she added in a statement.
Developing nations have called for wealthy economies to cut their emissions by at least 40 percent by 2020 compared with 1990 levels, and to provide around one percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) per year, or around 400 billion dollars, in finance.
So far, no rich country has come anywhere close to meeting such a demand.
They, in turn, are pressing emerging giants such as China, India and Brazil to strengthen promises to tackle their own greenhouse-gas output.
According to a diplomatic source, Hedegaard will present a proposal for a "binding political agreement" next month.
The "five-to-eight-page" draft document establishes pledges that would be fleshed out in 2010, the source said.
It would notably spell out ways of sharing curbs on greenhouse gases.
Rich countries would identify their commitments for reductions "over the medium term," a timeframe usually meaning 2020.
Developing countries would also be urged to spell out their own intended roster of actions to tackle greenhouse gases.
Brazil on Friday became the first emerging giant to make a nonbinding promise of this kind, saying it would make a voluntary pledge to reduce its emissions by between 36 and 39 percent by 2020 as compared to anticipated trends.
Underpinning all commitments would be agreement that actions have to be transparent, measurable and verifiable.
The deal would give the green light to "fast-start" funding to help poor countries switch to a low-carbon economy and fight the impacts of climate change. This would be the first step to a much larger inflow of funds.
Hedegaard met Sunday with her Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua and said the two held "constructive" talks.
China, she said, was "very interested in obtaining results in Copenhagen on all the important issues."
Forty heads of state and government have indicated their intention to attend the end of the Copenhagen showdown. They will include German Chancellor Angela Merkel, her spokesman said in Berlin on Monday.
"I think there's a lot of pressure on world leaders... (especially) key countries, which know they can't come empty-handed to Copenhagen," Hedegaard said.
Facing green groups' criticism over the postponement of a legally binding deal, Hedegaard insisted the political agreement would be "substantial."
A legally binding accord would be in place in time for the expiry of the current roster of pledges under the Kyoto Protocol, she said.
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