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Published December 07, 2010, 09:56 AM

High-level climate talks to start as Kyoto’s extension hangs in air

CANCUN, Mexico — Ministerial-level talks are set to begin later Tuesday at the ongoing U.N. climate change conference in Mexico, with disputes over the extension of the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012 left unresolved.

CANCUN, Mexico— Ministerial-level talks are set to begin later Tuesday at the ongoing U.N. climate change conference in Mexico, with disputes over the extension of the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012 left unresolved.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and Mexican President Felipe Calderon are among the officials who are expected to speak at the opening ceremony of the upgraded portion of the annual talks, which aim to work out a new international framework to fight global warming.

Ministers attending the 16th Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP16, are expected to provide political guidance to the negotiations, which made little progress during the first week, before they wrap up on Friday.

Developed countries, particularly Japan, and developing countries remain sharply divided over whether to extend the legally binding 1997 protocol, whose five-year commitment period for greenhouse gas emissions cuts runs out at the end of 2012, with the latter calling for a “second” commitment period.

Japan rejected such calls at the outset of this year’s meeting and hardened the positions of developing countries by saying it would not accept under any circumstances having a reductions target continue beyond 2012 under the Kyoto pact.

Tokyo’s stance reflects its view that because the United States has refused to ratify the pact, only developed countries like Japan and the European Union are obligated to slash their emissions under the pact, while their emissions account for only 27 percent of the world’s total.

Japan argues that global warming cannot be curbed in any effective way unless China and the United States — the world’s two largest carbon dioxide emitters that together account for roughly 40 percent of emissions worldwide — join in a new broader architecture.

But developing countries say developed countries should continue to bear emissions cut obligations under the current pact, noting that they are poor and developed countries bear historical responsibility for past emissions.

As disputes over the issue continue, it is feared that there would be no new international framework in place to rein in greenhouse gases for 2013 and beyond by the time the pact’s present commitment period ends.

With suspicion running deep over Japan, the country’s top delegate, Environment Minister Ryu Matsumoto, will participate in the gathering and is expected to deliver a speech there on Thursday.

Since his arrival in Cancun on Sunday, Matsumoto has bilaterally met with senior officials from such countries as Russia, Mexico and South Africa, according to Japanese officials.

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