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U.S.-China Stalemate Blocks Climate Deal

The climate change talks in Copenhagen are entering their final hours with no clear agreement, even as President Obama and other world leaders hold a series of urgent, last-minute meetings to try to rescue the negotiations.

Obama arrived in Copenhagen on Friday, but empty-handed in terms of proposals that would end the deadlock with China.

While the U.S. and European nations have largely agreed on a series of carbon emission cuts and a package of financial aid for poor nations, developing nations, led by China, have refused to accept several key provisions.

"No country will get everything that it wants," Obama said.

One of the toughest sticking points is the insistence by Washington and others on a global monitoring inspection regime that would monitor whether countries, including China and India, are meeting their emissions targets. Beijing has pledged to slow emissions but refuses to agree to an independent monitoring system.

"We will honor our word with real action," said Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who met privately with Obama for more than an hour on Friday.

2010 Treaty Target May Be Dropped

In a short speech to the morning session of the negotiation, Obama emphasized the stakes.

"While the reality of climate change is not in doubt, I have to be honest, as the world watches us today, I think our ability to take collective action is in doubt right now, and it hangs in the balance," he told the conference. "I believe we can act boldly, and decisively, in the face of a common threat. That's why I come here today — not to talk, but to act."

But the gap between the developed world and poorer, developing nations has appeared insurmountable for much of the two-week conference.

Even before the conference started, leaders admitted they would not be able to agree on a legally binding climate treaty in Copenhagen, saying that they would instead push that off to a conference scheduled for Mexico City in late 2010.

Now, the latest draft of the Copenhagen agreement drops the 2010 deadline for agreeing on a legally binding treaty, according to press reports. The development suggests that the ultimate product could fall well short of what the Obama administration had hoped for when timing his dramatic, last-minute arrival at the conference.

Financial Commitments

Many other developing nations are unhappy with the offer by the U.S. and others to provide up to $100 billion annually to help poor countries cope with climate change, arguing they need significantly more support.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton endorsed the $100 billion target when she arrived in Copenhagen on Thursday, but the money is contingent on a climate deal that includes effective verification measures to monitor countries' compliance with emissions targets.

Obama made no immediate gesture to suggest that figure could grow larger.

"We know the fault lines because we've been imprisoned by them for years," Obama said. "These international discussions have essentially taken place now for almost two decades, and we have very little to show for it other than an increased acceleration of the climate change phenomenon."

The U.S. is supporting a goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels. That target falls below offers put forward by Europe, Japan, and Russia. China has offered general support for the target, but has shown little willingness to bend on its other objections.

China has emerged as the pivotal leader of the developing nations bloc in Copenhagen, helping to forge a surprisingly powerful and united front against the U.S. and the European Union.

"One of the major revelations coming out of the Copenhagen summit is the strength of the developing country coalition," says an analysis by the Eurasia Group, a global political risk research firm. "The clear implication from this development is that these countries consider their interests far more aligned with each other than with industrialized countries, despite concerted efforts by the U.S., E.U., and others to divide them into two main groupings — poorer countries (such as least developed countries in sub-Saharan Africa) and larger, faster growing economies (like China and India)."

World leaders continued a series of informal meetings to salvage some kind of agreement.

"We are down to the wire," said Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou. "We may get something; we may not. It's very difficult to say. Let's hope, but in any case this momentum must be continued."

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