Pressure increases for climate change deal

With just a week to go before crunch talks on tackling climate change kick off in Copenhagen, the pressure is mounting on world leaders to reach agreement on efforts to cut the greenhouse gases pushing up global temperatures.

With just a week to go before crunch talks on tackling climate change kick off in Copenhagen, the pressure is mounting on world leaders to reach agreement on efforts to cut the greenhouse gases pushing up global temperatures.

In the last few days the world's biggest polluters have stepped forward with pledges for tackling their emissions, while UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has proposed a 10 billion US dollar fund to kick-start support for poor countries to deal with climate change and break the "deadlock" on a new agreement.

But in the run-up to the talks, environmental campaigners are warning more needs to be done to secure an ambitious deal that will steer the world away from "dangerous" climate change.

More than 60 world leaders are among those attending the crunch conference, which begins on December 7 and aims to reach agreement on a number of global measures to tackle climate change, including cutting emissions, reducing deforestation and funding poor countries to cope with rising temperatures.

The UK's Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband said that in the final stretch before the talks, the focus was on securing the "most ambitious, comprehensive agreement we can".

"Last week we saw again that the pressure of the December deadline is paying off as the US and China put numbers on the table. We have come a long way but there is still a distance to travel to get the agreement we need, consistent with the demands of the science," he said.

"Every day, in any way we can, we will be pushing every country to show the necessary ambition for the agreement we need. Copenhagen can and must succeed but it still needs maximum pressure from politicians and public alike."

The pledges on emissions by the US and China made this week join a raft of other offers from developed countries, including the EU and Japan, as well as plans by nations such as Brazil and Indonesia to curb their carbon output.

The offers from the two biggest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions could "unlock two of the last doors" to a comprehensive deal on climate action, according to the UN's chief climate official Yvo de Boer.

But, with the "eyes of the world" on Copenhagen, he warned there was a need for continued ambition and strong leadership to get the deal needed to keep global temperature rises to no more than 2C.

Friends of the Earth's Executive Director, Andy Atkins said: "Despite the looming threat of catastrophic climate change, the international community is still a long way from agreeing any effective action at Copenhagen.

"But a strong and fair agreement could still be reached if the rich nations that have done most to cause this crisis show bold and genuine leadership in tackling it.

"Developed countries must agree to cut their emissions by at least 40% by 2020, without carbon offsets, and provide poorer nations with adequate public funding to enable them to take action too."

He added: "The next three weeks could be crucial in securing the long-term future of the planet - the public must keep the pressure on rich countries to pull out all the stops and ensure a cleaner, safer future for us all."

Protests are planned in the UK ahead of the start of the two-week conference, with potentially thousands of people gathering in London next Saturday to demand a strong and fair climate deal.

More than 15,000 people are expected to attend the talks themselves, with a carbon footprint of more than 40,000 tonnes and an estimated cost of 64 million US dollars for the Danish Government and the UN for running the summit.

De Boer has said the climate conference must see decisions and immediate action made on emissions cuts in the next decade by rich nations, funding to reduce deforestation and finance to help poor countries cope with global warming and develop without increasing their pollution.

Some leaders have warned the Copenhagen talks cannot deliver a signed and sealed legally-binding treaty - though some kind of "political agreement" is possible - and are already looking to next year for achieving a final accord.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told a meeting of heads of Commonwealth countries an agreement was in sight, saying: "My message to you today is simple: stay focused, stay committed, come to Copenhagen, and seal a deal."

And in a final communique from the meeting yesterday, the 53 rich and poor nations in the Commonwealth called for a "comprehensive, substantial and operationally binding agreement in Copenhagen leading towards a full legally binding outcome no later than 2010".

But with scientists warning of the catastrophic consequences of failing to halt rising emissions, the 64 million dollar question - which will probably only be answered in the early hours on the last night of the talks - will be whether a strong enough deal can be reached to avert dangerous climate change.

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