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Cancun negotiators make progress on global warming deal

Expectations for the latest round of UN climate talks had been low in the run up to the conference, but negotiators have managed to keep the show on the road towards an ultimate deal on global warming.

Well before the conference in Cancun, Mexico, UK ministers had admitted that there would be no new final deal on tackling climate change this time round.

Instead the focus was expected to be on the practical actions that countries could agree on, such as funding to help poor nations cope with climate change and a scheme to provide finance for tackling deforestation.

And a key part of the talks were about rebuilding trust between rich and poor countries from the rubble of Copenhagen, when a push to secure a new, binding global deal ended in chaos and recrimination.

Before the conference, the former top UN climate official Yvo de Boer, who steered the talks in the Danish capital, said the international process designed to tackle climate change had been shown a yellow card in Copenhagen and - like a footballer trying to avoid being sent off - could not afford another.

But the same fault lines - mainly over what is to be done about the existing climate treaty and how major emitters such as the US and China should be included in a future deal - emerged once again in the past two weeks.

Japan threw a spanner in the works early on with its statement it would not accept a second phase of the existing treaty, the Kyoto protocol, turning attention from areas such as finance and forests onto old rows about what form a new deal could take.

And, right to the very end of the talks, Bolivia was a key objector to the agreement that was shaping up.

Despite these setbacks, the Mexican government hosting the talks had clearly learnt the lessons of Copenhagen, and where last year's talks were beset with accusations of back-room deals and secret negotiating texts, the negotiations in Cancun have been widely seen as open, inclusive and transparent.

The Mexican president of the UN talks, Patricia Espinosa, won widespread recognition - and two standing ovations in the final hours of the talks - for the way she has steered the process and restored the trust of countries.

The mood has undoubtedly been better than in Copenhagen and there has been a widespread willingness to make progress.

There has also been a recognition that the process of negotiations towards an international deal under the auspices of the UN was under threat.

Earlier this week Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne warned that a failure to make progress in Cancun could see the talks giving way to "zombie" conferences in which increasingly lower level officials attended the meetings and no decisions could be made.

In the end, nobody considers the agreement struck here to be perfect, but it includes a number of elements countries were pushing for, including a green fund to channel billions to poor countries to cope with climate change and deal on tackling deforestation, and action to make monitor and verify the actions countries are taking to curb emissions.

And it has prevented the wheels coming off the process altogether, enabling countries to stay on the road to Durban, where it is hoped an international deal can finally be struck.

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