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Key Issues at UN Climate Change Conference

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Copenhagen, capital of Denmark, where the UN Climate Change Conference opens on Tuesday, has become a hotspot as the meeting is expected to draw at least 100 national leaders, including US President Barack Obama and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. Two big issues are key to the upcomig eye-catching negotiations on climate change.

Will a new agreement be finally reached?

In 2012, the Kyoto Protocol to prevent climate changes and global warming will expire. To sustain the fight against climate change, there is an urgent need to reach a new climate agreement on energy saving and emission reduction.

However, as the world's nations are deeply divided over two major issues -- developed countries' midterm emission reduction targets and funds for developing countries to limit their emissions growth and adapt to the climate change, it is doubted whether a new agreement will be clinched.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in order to keep temperatures in the less dangerous range of 2 degrees C. above pre industrial levels, industrialized nations have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent to 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020.

This is far higher than industrialized countries' current reduction commitment of 8 to 12 percent.

Besides, agreement on how much the industrialized countries should pay for poor nations' clean energy technology and other projects will also be difficult to reach.

The rich countries have proposed to mobilize US$10 billion a year by 2012 to support adaptation and mitigation in developing countries, which, according to expert studies by the World Bank, is barely a start, as hundreds of billions of dollars are needed a year for fighting climate change.

Whether or not to pursue the Kyoto Protocol?

The Kyoto Protocol was initially adopted on December 11, 1997 in Kyoto, Japan and entered into force on February 16, 2005. As of November 2009, 187 states have signed and ratified the pact.

It establishes a "common but differentiated" principle, recognizing an obligation by the rich to compensate for the climate damage they have done and by the poor to raise their peoples from poverty.

At the upcoming conference, rich and poor nations will argue over the legal structure of the post-Kyoto deal.

The United States, which is responsible for 36 percent of the 1990 emission levels, still refuses to adopt Kyoto, saying its binding emissions targets are too expensive for the American economy.

The country has been pushing for another approach, in which emitters will make pledges that will be open to scrutiny but not exposed to tough penalties.

The European Union, seeing itself as a champion in the fight against climate change, has signal led that it wants a new overall treaty that will include the United States, rather than a second round of commitments under Kyoto.

At the last negotiating session in Barcelona, Spain, before the Copenhagen conference, Ibrahim Mirghani Ibrahim, chairman of Group-77 Developing Countries, said "the Group will strongly stand against all attempts by developed countries to reach an agreement which would in any way result in superseding the Kyoto Protocol or making it redundant."

As climate change is pushing the world towards a low-carbon future, the Copenhagen conference is compared to the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944 during which over 700 delegates from 44 nations signed an agreement to rebuild the international economic system as World War II was still raging.

Thus, although it is almost impossible for the Copenhagen conference to produce an outcome that meets the demands of all parties, it will still be a historic turning point in the fight against climate change.

(Xinhua News Agency December 7, 2009)

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