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Climate talks end, lukewarm

Meetings in Poland finish with hopes for a new treaty next year.

December 13, 2008|Laurie Goering | Goering writes for the Chicago Tribune.

POZNAN, POLAND — With developing countries offering more emission cuts than anticipated and richer nations in many cases offering fewer, global climate negotiators wrapped up lackluster talks Friday that U.N. officials said nonetheless kept the world on the path toward a new treaty by next December.

In the final day of talks, delegates agreed on principles of financing for a fund to help the poorest nations cope with the effects of climate change. Earlier they approved a mechanism to incorporate forest protection into efforts to curb greenhouse-gas emissions.

But basic questions over an equitable balance of emissions cuts between richer and poorer nations for the most part remained unresolved, particularly because some wealthy countries, such as Japan and Canada, balked at making firm promises to cut emissions.

"We got the bare minimum of what we needed from the talks," said Jennifer Haverkamp, international climate policy director for the Environmental Defense Fund.

Negotiations have been hampered by growing fear of a global recession.

Despite those worries, Europe signed its own climate agreement Friday, committing the region to a 20% cut in emissions by 2020 as well as a doubling of use of renewable energy and boosting energy efficiency 20% over the same period.

President-elect Barack Obama's promise to make combating climate change a priority of his administration produced as much frustration as enthusiasm at Poznan as some wealthy countries delayed decisions on cuts until seeing a new U.S. proposal.

But several developing countries, including Mexico and South Africa, offered concrete plans to cut their own greenhouse gases. Brazil made a commitment to cut deforestation 70% by 2017, a move that would in effect cut the country's greenhouse gas contribution by more than a third.

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lgoering@tribune.com

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