Climate change forum ABCs

Today and tomorrow, representatives of 17 nations – those responsible for 75 percent of the world's carbon emissions – will be meeting in Washington to discuss climate change. Here's a quick backgrounder to help put it into perspective. We'll be writing more on this later today and tomorrow.

WHO: Representatives are expected from Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, Denmark, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa and the United States.

WHAT: The Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate Change was called by President Obama to build consensus among attending nations about actions to curb greenhouse-gas emissions, including cooperation on technology and other issues. Although no big break-throughs are expected, the gathering provides the opportunity for various countries to discuss issues in a more informal way than in huge UN-sponsored meetings, says Todd Stern, the top US. negotiator of international climate-change agreements. It's hoped that these talks will make future UN talks go more smoothly.

WHEN: April 27-28, 2009

WHY: "The two-day meeting of so-called major economies is meant to jump-start climate talks in advance of a December deadline, when the international community meets in Copenhagen to find a follow-up agreement to the [1997] Kyoto Protocol, which limits climate-warming greenhouse emissions and expires in 2012," reports Reuters.

GOALS: The US hopes to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent (to 1990 levels) by 2020 and by 80 percent below the 1990 level by 2050. The European Union has agreed to a similar reduction for 2020. Click here to see more goals.

WILD CARD: Congress. Can Obama get his climate-change agenda though the House of Representatives and the Senate?

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