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U.S., China at odds in climate talks

COPENHAGEN — The success of the U.N. climate conference hung in the balance Tuesday as China and the United States deadlocked over whether Beijing will allow the world to check its books and verify promised cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

Princes, presidents and premiers crowded into a vast hall for the formal opening of the largest summit ever held on climate change, but attention was on the leaders of the world's two largest polluters — President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao — who plan to arrive for the final days of talks on a framework to control heat-trapping gases.

Negotiators who have been working for 10 days floated new draft documents on lesser issues. But they left open the vexing questions of emissions targets for industrial countries, billions of dollars a year in funding for poor countries to contend with global warming, and verifying the actions of emerging powers like China to ensure they keep their promises.

"In these very hours, we are balancing between success and failure," said conference president Connie Hedegaard of Denmark. Success is possible, she said, "but I must also warn you: We can fail — probably without anyone really wanting it so, but because we spent too much time on posturing, on repeating positions, on formalities."

The rest of the 115 leaders were expected to arrive before Friday's summit finale to sign a political outline of a global warming treaty that would set limits on carbon dioxide pollution by the United States, China, India as well as extending emissions targets for the 37 countries regulated under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

Forest preservation deal nearly complete

Negotiators have all but completed a sweeping deal that would compensate countries for preserving forests that play a crucial role in curbing climate change. Environmental groups have long advocated such a compensation program because forests are efficient absorbers of carbon dioxide, the primary heat-trapping gas linked to global warming. Rain forest destruction, which releases the carbon dioxide stored in trees, is estimated to account for 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions globally.

Carbon footprint builds in Copenhagen

If they fail to reach a climate deal, world leaders will have little to show for their efforts beyond a big, fat carbon footprint. The U.N. estimates 40,500 tons of carbon dioxide will be pumped into the atmosphere during the 12-day conference — 90 percent of it from flights. The rest comes from waste and electricity related to transport to and from the conference center and lodging.

Americans believe curbs will boost jobs

More Americans believe that steps taken to reduce global warming pollution will help the U.S. economy than say such measures will hurt it. In an Associated Press-Stanford University poll, 40 percent said U.S. action to slow global warming in the future would create jobs. Slightly more, 46 percent, said it would boost the economy. By contrast, less than a third said curbing climate change would hurt the economy and result in fewer jobs.

U.S., China at odds in climate talks 12/15/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 15, 2009 11:26pm]
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