Climate chief welcomes obama's presence

The UN's chief climate official has said that Barack Obama's presence at the forthcoming international talks on global warming would be "critical" after officials announced the US president would be attending the conference.

The UN's chief climate official has said that Barack Obama's presence at the forthcoming international talks on global warming would be "critical" after officials announced the US president would be attending the conference.

Yvo de Boer said the world was looking to the US to put figures on the table for the emissions cuts it was prepared to make and provide finance to help poorer countries cope with climate change as part of a new international deal.

And he warned there was "no plan B" for the UN talks in Copenhagen, which aim to secure agreement between countries on cutting the emissions which cause climate change.

The president will attend the summit on December 9 before heading to Oslo to accept the Nobel Peace Prize. More than 60 world leaders have agreed to attend the conference on December 17 and 18 as the talks draw to a close.

The summit in Copenhagen was originally meant to deliver a signed and sealed legally-binding treaty but in recent weeks leaders have said they see a political agreement coming out of the talks, with a legal treaty potentially drawn up later.

De Boer said a series of decisions had to be made in the Danish capital at the talks which begin in 11 days, including targets "recorded in black and white" for the cuts in greenhouse gases that industrialised countries would make by 2020.

He said: "I've not been talking about a political declaration, but a set of decisions that would provide absolute clarity on rich country targets, developing country actions and on finance."

A deal in Copenhagen must allow for immediate action on cutting emissions, finance for adaptation and protecting forests without having to wait for a "legal instrument" to come into force, he said.

De Boer also warned the current pledges put forward by countries for the cuts they were prepared to make in greenhouse gases were insufficient to keep temperatures from rising by more than 2C, above which the world could be at risk of "dangerous" climate change, according to scientists.

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