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Divisions Surface at UN Climate Change Talks

Climate change negotiators from 173 countries have agreed on an agenda after days of bickering over the scope of talks left little time for substantive discussions. The disagreement highlighted deep divisions between developing and rich countries on how to cut global carbon emissions.

The United Nations climate change talks in Bangkok produced an agenda late Friday for negotiations this year to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

After a week of sometimes frustrating discussions of little substance, the U.N. issued a short statement saying delegates agreed to work toward a comprehensive and balanced outcome at the climate change conference in Durban, South Africa, at the end of the year.

They also agreed to address the implementation of agreements made last year at talks in Cancun, Mexico, and on issues that were not resolved at Cancun such as the possibility of a legally binding agreement.

Christiana Figueres, the U.N. climate change chief, told journalists at the Bangkok talks a division emerged between developing countries wanting comprehensive negotiations and industrialized nations focused on fulfilling agreements made in Cancun.

"That they need to find a way that they can both focus on the very specific items that come out of Cancun as well as at the same time keep all of the other issues that were not resolved or agreed or no decision was made in Cancun, keep those on the table," she said.

In Cancun, countries agreed they should prevent the average global temperature from rising more than two degrees Celsius by 2020 and to a $100 billion fund to help poor nations adapt to climate change.

They also agreed to a process of countries pledging emission cuts and climate change mitigation efforts and then being subject to international review.

But they did not decide on the future of the Kyoto Protocol, the only binding international agreement on reducing emissions, which is set to expire at the end of 2012.

The lead negotiator for the United States, John Pershing, says some nations at the Bangkok talks wanted to revisit decisions reached in Cancun.

"There are also a number of people in these negotiations who don’t believe that the tasks in this agenda are sufficient. They’d like us to do other things. They’d like the next step. Our sense has been that if we can implement what we agreed in Cancun it will open the door to the next step," he said.

Developing countries, which are not bound by the Kyoto Protocol, want it to be extended and expanded to include the U.S., the only wealthy nation that did not sign on.

Developing countries and activists say since industrialized nations were historically responsible for most greenhouse gas emissions they should be legally obligated to cut their own and help poor countries cut theirs by providing funding and technology.

The U.S. says it will not join any legally binding treaty on climate change unless all major economies are legally bound, including China, which overtook the U.S. as the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

Figures says once the review process comes into effect countries will better understand whether the bottom up approach is enough or if a top down treaty is needed to compliment it.