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World's big polluters kick off climate talks in Washington

by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Sept 17, 2009
Representatives of the world's 17 biggest carbon polluters kicked off a week of high-stakes talks on climate change Thursday with a discussion at the US State Department.

The main aim of the week of meetings is to bridge differences ahead of the UN December 7-18 climate change conference in Copenhagen, where a pact for curbing global warming beyond 2012 -- when Kyoto Protocol obligations on cutting emissions expire -- is to be crafted.

Negotiators will meet for two days at the State Department in Washington, then move to New York next week and then on to Pittsburgh.

The meetings come as Washington tries to resume a leadership role on climate change, and follow a warning from UN chief Ban Ki-moon that world leaders need to "get moving" on climate change.

Representatives from the European Union, France, Italy, Germany and Britain were at the State Department talks, along with officials representing Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, and host, the United States.

The participants belong to the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, an initiative that US President Barack Obama launched in March -- a sharp change from the policies of his predecessor George W. Bush, who rejected the Kyoto Protocol, the previous UN framework on climate change.

Together the countries are responsible for 80 percent of the planet's greenhouse gas emissions.

"It's a private meeting," said a State Department spokesman, adding however there would be a telephone press conference on Friday.

However a State Department official speaking on condition of anonymity said the meeting will seek to "deepen the candid dialogue among major developed and developing economies in an effort to help generate the political leadership necessary to achieve a successful outcome at the December UN climate change conference in Copenhagen."

Talks Thursday and Friday "will focus primarily on key areas of mitigation, adaptation and technology," the official said.

Michael Zammit Cutajar, who chairs the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) working group on long-term cooperative action, said in July that the United States has undergone an important mood-shift and is on the path toward "strong climate action."

Yet finding common ground on climate change remains challenging -- and that could mean difficult and even inconclusive talks in Washington, New York and Pittsburgh.

Last week, the US Special Envoy for Climate Change, Todd Stern -- who represents the United States at the talks in Washington -- told a House of Representatives panel that persistent disagreement between developed and developing nations has kept an international solution on climate change at arm's length.

Scientists have repeatedly warned climate change could affect health in many ways, ranging from malnutrition caused by drought to the risk of cholera from flooding and the spread of mosquito-borne disease to temperate zones.

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