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Montreal Climate Talks Map Strategies Beyond Kyoto

Climate negotiators from around the world are meeting in Montreal to discuss tougher measures against global warming when the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

Under the United Nations-sponsored treaty, which went into force early this year, 38 industrialized nations promised that within seven years, they would reduce their climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 percent below 1990 levels.

A new report released by the private PEW Center on Global Climate Change offers the Montreal negotiators some post-Kyoto ideas for getting nations to map out specific Post-Kyoto strategies.

The report is based on meetings over the last year of 25 government officials and business leaders from 15 countries including the United States, Mexico, Australia, Brazil, China and Japan. Pew Center on Global Climate Change president Eileen Claussen says the report suggests some novel approaches to addressing climate change that are practical, politically viable and effective.

"The report says what we need is a more flexible international framework that can engage the world's major economies, " she says. "Twenty-five countries account for 83 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. All of these countries must participate in the solution."

The United States rejected the Kyoto Protocol on the grounds that it would harm the U.S. economy, and that it failed to require emission reduction targets from major polluters in developing countries.

The PEW Center's Eileen Claussen says the Bush administration, to its credit, has initiated a series of agreements with other countries focused mainly on global warming technologies. But Ms. Claussen believes that as the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions, the United States must do more.

"So far the administration has suggested that it is very busy with its own initiatives and doesn't want to participate in this," she says. "We think it has to, and we also think that the other major economies have to as well in both the developed and developing countries."

The report calls for a framework that would allow countries to take on different types of commitments to address climate change. Elliot Diringer, PEW director of international strategies and advisor on the report, says the whole process should be more open and flexible.

"The idea here is that countries [initiate] different approaches," he says. "They come into groups of like-minded countries along different tracks. For instance, major steel producing countries might talk about a sector agreement. Some of them might also negotiate economy-wide targets or technology cooperation. Some of them might look at some form of policy commitments."

Eileen Claussen adds that these efforts could encourage voluntary emissions reductions by major polluting industries like power, automotive and other key sectors.

"For example, the aluminum industry has had discussions about a sector approach on aluminum that would result in reduced emissions," she says, adding "there should be a way to bring that into the process."

U.S. industrial leaders, like the Bush administration, have long favored a voluntary, flexible approach to the global warming problem. Linda Fisher, Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer of Dupont, - one of five corporations involved in the study - says the PEW report promotes that flexibility.

"It recognizes that there isn't one answer, that it might look different in different nations, that it might look different in different sectors and that there might be a way that we might be able to accommodate that diversity and flexibility," she says. "I think a lot of times people don't like the end so they don't want to begin the process, and one of the things that I found unique is that [this report] recognized that there might not be one common end, but you can still make a lot of progress in the ultimate goal, which is reducing these emissions."

The report also calls for a high level political dialogue among the major economies outside the formal U.N. negotiating process. The goal, the report says, should be to establish a broader political consensus that can help to quicken the pace of the sometimes sluggish climate change negotiations.

The Montreal Climate Talks run through December 9.