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“Parties should not allow U.S. domestic politics to lower the overall level of ambition of an international agreement,” said Manuel Oliva, of Conservation International.

A study by World Resources Institute said the Obama administration could reach the 17 percent goal without passing a sweeping climate bill by using existing powers, including those of the Environmental Protection Agency; by issuing new regulations and executive orders; and through piecemeal energy legislation, Oliva said.

The talks in Bonn and Tianjin aim to prepare a successor agreement to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which calls on industrial countries to reduce emissions but makes no demands of developing countries like China and India, which are now among the largest polluters.

The United States rejected Kyoto as imbalanced and unfair, but said it will join a new climate regime as long as it is “symmetrical,” encompassing all major emitters.

The emissions-controlling terms of the Kyoto accord expire in 2012, a deadline that has delegates worried about leaving a vacuum unless a new agreement is in place _ the so-called Kyoto gap.

Negotiations have stumbled along for 2 1/2 years. The original intention was to seal an agreement in Copenhagen, but that summit of 120 world leaders in the Danish capital only managed to agree on a brief political statement of intentions.

The top U.N. climate official, Christiana Figueres, said it may be unnecessary to complete a full agreement in Cancun. It was up to the countries to decide whether they want to make it legally binding or a series of less enforceable decisions.

But she said by the Cancun conference begins wealthy countries should have made the first payment of a $30 billion three-year promise of emergency climate funds to poor countries.

“Developing nations see the allocation of this money as a critical signal that industrialized nations are committed to progress in the broader negotiations,” said Figueres.