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No Clear Consensus at International Climate Talks

China's State Councilor Dai Bingguo, right, gestures to U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres, left, at the opening of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Tianjin, China, 04 Oct. 2010

United Nations talks on climate change are nearing a close with no clear consensus yet in sight. The meeting is aimed at laying the groundwork for progress at a major climate change meeting in Mexico later this year.

While many of the negotiators for a global climate change accord consider it a pressing issue, there is less agreement on how to share the burden of tackling the problem.

Last year, the international community failed to reach an agreement that included legally binding emissions reductions at a high-profile meeting in Copenhagen.

Precursor to Cancun meeting

This week's meeting in the Chinese port city of Tianjin is the precursor to the world's next big attempt, at Cancun, Mexico, later this year.

Jake Schmidt is with the U.S. environmental group, Natural Resources Defense Council. He says some countries in recent days appear to be stalling, by raising questions about procedural, rather than substantive issues, which could hamper efforts to produce a deal in Cancun.

"Instead of trying to produce a text which incorporated every single element that we could possibly envision, the chair proposed a set of, effectively, bullet points, that said here are the things that I think we can legitimately agree to in Cancun," Schmidt said. "And obviously there are going to be some things off that list. And the Chinese, Saudi Arabia and others, questioned whether or not the chair had the ability to do that."

Foundation for agreement

Schmidt says as of Thursday, he is pessimistic that this week's meeting will, in his words, "lay the foundation" for an agreement in Cancun

He says many countries appear to be ready to agree to things like reforestation efforts and technology adaptation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But they are not ready to agree on what he described as "the tougher things."

"Like whether or not they're going to formalize their international commitments, their commitments to reduce emissions, and whether or not they're going to agree to a set of transparency provisions," Schmidt added.


Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide released by burning fuels such as oil and coal, are thought to contribute to global warming.

One of the big sticking points is whether there should be binding targets to reduce emissions. Although China has overtaken the United States to become the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, Beijing refuses to commit to targets because it says it is still a developing nation.


Earlier in the week, Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo told the conference one of his country's top priorities is to develop the economy.

Dai says China's ability to control greenhouse gas emissions faces great pressure. He says the speed of industrialization and urbanization in the country is still quickening, which means its energy demand will also increase.

Delegates from nearly 200 countries began their meeting in Tianjin on Monday. The talks end Saturday.