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U.S. Takes Center Stage in Kyoto Fight as Climate Talks Teeter

The Obama administration reiterated its opposition to global talks for a new climate change deal by 2015, putting the fate of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol in question.

The European Union says it won’t move ahead with the 1997 Kyoto treaty, key portions of which expire next year, unless countries including the U.S. agree on a “road map” for a new, legally binding deal by 2015.

The Obama administration has no interest in such an accord unless key sticking points are worked out and all large greenhouse-gas emitters, including China and India, take equally stringent actions to fight global warming, U.S. negotiator Jonathan Pershing said today. Such talks failed during 2009 and there’s no reason to believe they wouldn’t today, he said.

“There’s no framework that we can envision that would be a successful framework that didn’t include all the major economies,” Pershing told reporters at a briefing in Durban, South Africa, where more than 190 countries are meeting for United Nations-led climate negotiations.

Pershing noted that the non-binding agreements reached last year in Cancun include actions from all the world’s major emitters, while Kyoto “has this fairly small number of active players.”

The Cancun Agreements, which include voluntary emissions cuts and calls for a new Green Climate Fund, probably would never have been forged if “we made it legal” like Kyoto, Pershing said.

No Pressure

The U.S., the world’s biggest industrial greenhouse-gas polluter, rejected the Kyoto treaty because it doesn’t require mandatory actions from countries such as China, the world’s largest emitter.

Environmentalists say they are pessimistic on prospects for any agreement on Kyoto or a new deal in Durban.

“Those goals do not appear to be achievable,” the Environmental Defense Fund said in a statement late yesterday on the eve of the Durban talks.

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