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UN: World's Glaciers Thawing at Record Rates

The United Nations Environment Program says the world's glaciers are shrinking at record rates and many could disappear within decades, in a troubling sign of global climate change.

The U.N. agency said Sunday that glaciers shrank by an average of 1.5 meters in 2006, up from just over half a meter in 2005. The agency says further ice loss could have dramatic consequences, particularly in Asia where millions of people depend on seasonal melt water from the Himalayas.

The World Glacier Monitoring Service tracked data from almost 30 glaciers in nine separate mountain ranges for the study.

Also today, the world's top 20 emitters of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming wrapped up talks in Japan on shaping a post-Kyoto Protocol climate pact. Representatives from top carbon emitters such as the U.S. and China agreed with their counterparts from developing nations to back U.N.-led efforts to fight global warming.

But a gap emerged between rich and poor states over which approach would most equitably and effectively solve the problem.

Japan, backed by the U.S., proposed assigning emissions targets by industrial sector which, taken together, would form a national target. But developing nations say the concept is unclear and that they should not be placed in the same category as major industrialized countries when deciding on future emissions cuts.

The so-called G20 members, which includes leading industrialized nations plus large developing countries such as China, India, Brazil and Indonesia, are responsible for about 80 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions.

The next round of negotiations on a successor to the Kyoto climate treaty will take place in Bangkok, Thailand at the end of March.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.