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Copenhagen global warming draft points to hard bargaining ahead

A draft pact for a global warming treaty released Friday in Copenhagen would commit the US to significant emissions cuts by 2020 and draw developing nations into an agreement for the first time.

By Peter N. SpottsStaff writer / December 11, 2009

An activist dressed as a polar bear holds a sign urging the US to help the atmosphere return to the safe limit of 350 parts per million CO2, at the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen Friday.

Heribert Proepper/AP


Negotiators working on a new global warming treaty released a draft pact today that would commit the US to significant emissions cuts by 2020 and 2050. And, for the first time, it would draw developing countries into a climate agreement, something many analysts say is crucial in the fight against global warming.

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The seven-page draft provides the springboard for talks next week in Copenhagen among government ministers. At the end of the week, some 117 heads of state -- including President Obama -- are coming to Copenhagen to wrap up an agreement. As senior political officials, the ministers will try to resolve as many of the outstanding issues as they can before the heads of state arrive.

Those outstanding issues appear as bracketed text in the draft, and they include the most critical elements of a new agreement: temperature objectives and emissions targets, and long-term financial aid for developing countries to help them adapt to global warming and afford the green technologies thew would need to live up to their part of the agreement.

The new text and a companion document for countries negotiating a new commitment period under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, "really crystallize the key issues," says Alden Meyer, director of policy and planning for the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington. Reviewing the talks so far from his vantage point in Copenhagen, Mr. Meyer, a veteran of climate negotiations since 1992, observed: "This is probably the most intense and high level negotiating session we've ever had on the climate issues."

Among the major issues covered in the draft that still must be negotiated:

• Temperature objectives. Much of the focus has been aimed at limiting the rise in global average temperatures above preindustrial levels to 2 degrees C. (3.6 degrees F.). But developing countries in Africa, among others, strenuously argue for 1.5 degrees C. They do so on the basis of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projections suggesting that a 2-degree average warming worldwide will still lead to warming in large regions of Africa of up to 3.5 degrees C.