Countries agree on goals for new UN climate treaty

POZNAN, Poland (AP) -- Delegates from nearly 190 countries agreed Wednesday on a series of goals to be included in a global warming treaty, but the U.N. conference failed to make a real commitment to reduce the amount of carbon emissions.

Yvo de Boer, the top U.N. climate official, said the delegates had adopted a work plan to reach their goals over the next 12 months even though the statement re-affirmed similar aims to those agreed last year in Bali, Indonesia, and marked no real breakthrough.

"We are now at the point where a lot has been resolved but a limited number of issues remain outstanding," de Boer told reporters.

De Boer said in a statement they resolved to spell out specific emissions commitments for industrial countries, to raise large-scale funds to help poor countries adapt to their changing climate, and to create institutions to channel those funds.

He acknowledged that a fully drafted treaty likely would not be completed by next December, but said a "policy framework" should be ready for ratification and should enter into force in 2013.

More than 10,000 delegates and activists are working on a treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012, and requires 37 industrial countries to cut emissions by an average 5 percent from 1990 levels.

In a draft document to be approved later Wednesday, a key committee cited scientific studies saying industrial countries must cut carbon emissions by 25 percent to 40 percent by 2020 to contain global warming to safe levels.

But the committee fell short of actually adopting that target, leaving the issue for talks next year.

"We are standing in place at a time when we are supposed to be moving forward," said Angela Anderson of the Pew Charitable Trusts.

"This rate of progress can't continue if we hope to reach an agreement in Copenhagen," she said, referring to the Danish venue of the next major conference in December 2009.

Negotiators will meet at least three more times before Copenhagen, and will have a negotiating text on the table by June to work on, de Boer said.

Meanwhile, a separate committee concluded a draft agreement on including forest conservation in the next climate treaty.

Scientists say the destruction of some 32 million acres (13 million hectares) a year accounts for 20 percent of carbon emissions responsible by man. Vegetation consumes carbon, which is released in massive quantities when forests are cut or burned.

The proposal for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, known as REDD, calls for paying countries to stop forest destruction. In a nod to India and China which lost most of their forests decades ago, countries also will be rewarded for planting new forests or replenishing depleted land.

A hotly debated clause in the draft said indigenous people living in the forest will have "full and effective participation" in forest management. Representatives of native communities protested the text failed to recognize their "rights." as a distinct group of peoples.

They appealed to the conference to overrule the committee, and grant "the principle of free, prior and informed consent" by the people who live in the forests, as well as to guarantee that they benefit from programs to stop deforestation.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was attend the start on Thursday of a two-day meeting of government ministers from 145 countries that was meant to give further guidelines to the negotiators.

"On the whole, things are looking pretty good. It looks as though we will have cleared the decks for when the ministers arrive," de Boer said.

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