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Major Economies Downplay Goals for Cancun Climate Conference

The biggest polluting nations are downplaying goals for climate-change talks in December after failing last year to agree on a global treaty, the top U.S. climate negotiator said.

Representatives from countries emitting the most greenhouse gases agree it’s important not to let “expectations far outstrip what can be done” at UN-led talks in Cancun, Mexico, Todd Stern, President Barack Obama’s climate negotiator, said yesterday.

Negotiators completed two days of meetings in Washington at which they discussed short-term financing to help developing nations cope with climate change, one of the issues that thwarted agreement on a treaty. Countries failed to reach a binding agreement at a meeting last year in Copenhagen.

There’s “no question” expectations for a treaty at Copenhagen exceeded what could be achieved, Stern told reporters today on a conference call. Support exists for a legal agreement to control emissions, though officials are aware this “might not happen,” he said.

Some participants took part in the Washington meeting by video conference because the ash cloud from the Iceland volcano canceled flights from European capitals, Stern said.

Bloomberg, 20 April 2010