AMSTERDAM (AP) - The United States and China, which have clashed repeatedly at U.N. climate talks, are moving closer toward a limited agreement at a major global warming conference next month, the top U.N. official on climate change said Wednesday.
“Everything I see tells me that there is a deal to be done” when delegates from most of the world’s nations convene Nov. 29-Dec. 10 in the Mexican resort of Cancun, said Christiana Figueres, head of the U.N. climate change secretariat.
Delegates hope to adopt a set of decisions on practical steps toward alleviating the inevitable effects of climate change and to slow the growth of carbon emissions that trap the Earth’s heat and contribute to global warming.
Broader ambitions for a full-scale treaty foundered at a climate summit in December in Copenhagen, Denmark, over differences between rich and poor countries on targets for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.
Discussions on emissions targets are expected to continue in Cancun, but without hope for an agreement at least until the following year.
Figueres said countries realize the talks are too complex for one single deal. At stake is “the transformation of the economic patterns and the economic structures that we have lived with for decades,” she said in a conference call with reporters from her headquarters in Bonn, Germany.
The package to be adopted in Cancun would include transferring new technologies to developing countries, protecting the world’s rain forests and governing a climate fund that will reach $100 billion a year by 2020, she said.
The two key protagonists “are still in conversation to clarify differences, but I am confident that they have moved toward each other,” she said, without giving details. Both are committed to finding an agreement, and “this will open up the possibility for all industrialized and all developing countries to sign up to a comprehensive agreement.”
One critical element in dispute is how to monitor and verify that countries are keeping their promises to reduce carbon emissions. China objects to intrusive observations of its domestic policies, while the U.S. argues for transparency.
Figueres said Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has submitted a “useful” set of guidelines which could overcome the problem.
She said the U.S. has affirmed its pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels, despite the boost in strength in Congress in elections this month for avowed skeptics of climate change who oppose legislation curbs.
“The U.S. has said repeatedly it will honor that pledge,” she said.