Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton today called U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen a "steppingstone" toward a global, legally binding climate agreement, and spelled out U.S. priorities for the talks.
Her comments at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Singapore are an acknowledgement from the nation's top diplomat that next month's talks will not result in a final international deal to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
But Clinton also said the meeting would be pivotal and declared that the United States -- the world's second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases behind China -- is "prepared to assume our share of responsibility" to address climate change.
"If we all exert maximum effort and embrace the right blend of pragmatism and principle, I believe we can secure a strong outcome at Copenhagen, and that would be a steppingstone toward full legal agreement," she said.
Clinton warned against allowing the "pursuit of perfection" to block progress, but added that there are nonetheless metrics the United States will use to judge the outcome of the talks, which run Dec. 7-18.
The first, she said, is that all countries do their fair share. The next, she said, is that a deal should cover all major issues, which she said include adaptation, financing, technology cooperation, dissemination of technology and forest preservation.
Clinton also said the talks should address funding mechanisms to help developing nations.
"We are prepared to support a global climate fund that will support adaptation and mitigation efforts and a matching entity to help developing countries match needs with available resources," Clinton said.
"Funding through the new global climate fund and a technology mechanism will help developing countries identify what they need, where to get it, and how to finance, operate and maintain it," she said.
Clinton's view that Copenhagen won't result in a final deal reflects the views of other key negotiators.
"I don't think we can get a legally binding agreement by Copenhagen," U.N. climate chief Yvo de Boer said earlier this month in Barcelona, Spain (Greenwire, Nov. 6).
"I think that we can get that within a year after Copenhagen," he said.
The International Energy Agency issued a stark warning yesterday that time is of the essence to reach an emissions-cutting deal. Delays will make it harder to limit global temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius and add massive costs to the $10.5 trillion the agency believes will be needed by 2030 to shift to low-carbon energy sources.
"We calculate that each year of delay before moving onto the emissions path consistent with a 2°C temperature increase would add approximately $500 billion to the global incremental investment cost of $10.5 trillion for the period 2010-2030," the IEA said in its 2009 World Energy Outlook. "A delay of just a few years would probably render that goal completely out of reach."
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