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Government negotiators are already writing off chances for a global treaty to fight climate change, nine months before the annual talks begin in Cancun, Mexico.

Kunihiko Shimada, principal international negotiator at the Japanese Ministry of the Environment, said a deal this year is “almost impossible.” Jos Delbeke, who spearheads European Union climate policy at the European Commission, ruled out a “comprehensive legal agreement” in 2010.

Their remarks call into question whether efforts to curb greenhouse-gas emissions are progressing after failing in Copenhagen in December. President Barack Obama’s energy proposal is bogged down in the U.S. Congress. Without a U.S. commitment, China and India, two of the fastest-growing polluters, may be reluctant to limit greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

“The expectations for a legally binding treaty are diminishing,” Abyd Karmali, global head of carbon markets at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said in an interview at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance conference in London. “A lot of it is contingent on what we get in Washington. Right now it doesn’t seem it’s going to be as much as we thought.”

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