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With less than 50 days until the Copenhagen Climate Conference, officials have been meeting in London to work out the details of an agreement. While there is universal consensus that there needs to be a deal at Copenhagen, there are still many challenges to hammering out an agreement.
Britain hosted a meeting of officials from the 17 major economies this week, focusing on narrowing differences about how to tackle climate change ahead of December's Copenhagen Conference. British Energy and Climate Secretary Ed Miliband says there's one area that's not in doubt.
"The universal view that we need to get an agreement in Copenhagen, not an agreement at any price, but that we have come a long way and we need to convert the distance that we have traveled into an agreement in December of this year," he said.
Miliband said he was encouraged by this week's meeting and the general agreement among the participants that hard decisions have to be made at Copenhagen in December.
"There is a spirit of engagement, a spirit of willingness and actually a spirit of determination that having come so far, now is not the time to falter. Now there is significantly further to go, this is absolutely not a done deal. It remains in the balance in my view," Miliband said.
It will be a complex deal. Developing nations are worried about the cost of making changes, and whether reducing carbon emissions might hinder their growth, developed nations don't want to slow their economies or change the lifestyles of their citizens. Miliband says everyone's concerns need to be addressed.
"We are trying to do something very tough, we are trying to turn around the inexorable rise in global carbon emissions and that's never been done before and it certainly wasn't done at Kyoto. So the difficulty stems from the fact that in every country there are compelling constraints and difficulties that need to be overcome. Whether it's developing countries that need to take people out of poverty, whether its the situation in some developed countries where the debate on climate change has been slower to move than in other countries, we need to understand those constraints and overcome them," Miliband said.
Denmark's foreign minister was also in London this week. Per Stig Moeller says the European Union will have to take the lead on financing. One of the bigger challenges is finding the funds that will help developing nations make the changes they need to reduce carbon emissions.
"Without funds for transfer of technology and money for adaptation, the developing world will not strike a deal in Copenhagen, you can forget it," Moeller said.
He says it's not just the developing world that faces changes, the United States does too.
"It's obvious that the United States is in a difficult position. We know that while the United States recognizes the need, and the president not the least, for swift action, the domestic political situation complicates matters. But I think that the United States will demonstrate the necessary leadership once the show gets going," Moeller said.
The United States Senate still has to pass legislation that would cut emissions by 20 percent in just over a decade. If the legislature doesn't approve the bill before December, that could send a message that the U.S. is not committed to change. Washington's climate envoy, Todd Stearn, says the substance of the bill shows America's commitment.
"The kind of number that's in the Senate bill, frankly the kind of number that's in the House bill, those are strong numbers for the United States, that would involve a shift, really a seismic shift in the US economy," Stearn said.
Developing countries such as China and India have not clearly laid out plans to cut their emissions. Both have indicated they intend to make cuts. Stearn says nations may do different things, but actions will be important.
"The view of the United States on this point is that there is differentiation in what countries need to do. But in terms of the willingness of countries to stand behind whatever it is that they're doing, there can't be differentiation there. It can't be that the developed countries say we'll stand behind what we're doing and the developing countries say we'll tell you what we're doing but we won't stand behind it. So on that point, we've still got work to do," Stearn said.
With less than 50 days to go, there are still a lot of details to be hammered out before there's a deal in Copenhagen that everyone can live with.