PANAMA CITY — The European Union urged all nations Sunday to make clear how they will tackle climate change, saying the world needs a roadmap this year on future action even if a treaty appears out of reach.
Negotiators from around the world are meeting through Friday in Panama, hoping to find common ground on the thorniest issues before a closely watched UN climate conference in Durban, South Africa opens on November 28.
The Kyoto Protocol's obligations for wealthy nations to cut carbon emissions run out at the end of 2012, leading the European Union to propose a temporary new round of commitments under the landmark treaty to avoid any gap.
But chief EU climate negotiator Artur Runge-Metzger said that any new commitments by the Europeans needed to be part of a "broader package," noting that the bloc accounted for only 11 percent of global emissions.
"I think we need to know... what is this other 89 percent going to commit itself to? This is something where we need to have an answer," Runge-Metzger told reporters at the talks in Panama City.
"We know of course that Durban is not going to deliver a new legal outcome, a legal treaty. Time is just too short for that," he said.
"But what we need to produce in Durban is a roadmap towards a global legal framework," he said.
UN-backed scientists have warned that carbon emissions need to peak by mid-decade to avoid irreversible damage from climate change, with the growing incidence of extreme weather around the world likely to worsen.
Small island states have also lobbied hard for tough decisions on climate change, fearing that melting ice will lead to rising water levels that could literally destroy low-lying civilizations.
But China and the United States, the two biggest carbon emitters, are both out of the Kyoto Protocol. The treaty requires no action by emerging economies, leading former US president George W. Bush to reject the treaty as unfair.
China -- along with fellow emerging economies such as India -- has welcomed EU calls for another round under the Kyoto Protocol and urged wealthy nations to follow up on promises to provide climate aid to the poorest countries.
US President Barack Obama's administration has actively taken part in the negotiations, but he faces intense opposition from the rival Republican Party in which prominent members have questioned the science behind climate change.
Canada, Japan and Russia are part of the Kyoto Protocol but have made clear that they will not join another round of the treaty as it does not include emerging economies.
Australia and Norway have jointly proposed to set a 2015 deadline for a new treaty, with all countries -- wealthy and developing -- listing their actions and gradually making them more ambitious and binding.
UN climate chief Christiana Figueres told reporters that the written proposal by Australia and Norway was "very helpful" but said it was too soon to say if governments would rally around it.
"I have been very gratified to see that over the past few months," she said, "governments are really beginning to think very seriously about how they would like to advance" action on climate change.
Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, voiced hope that the Panama talks would start finding possible outcomes for Durban.
From the UN leadership's view, "the intent here in Panama is not to come out of Panama with a long, accordion-type text that puts everybody's positions one behind the other, but rather to begin to work on possible draft texts," she said.
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