Climate negotiators must push for global deal says Huhne

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The international climate talks in Mexico next week need to get the world "within shouting distance" of a deal to tackle global warming, Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne urged today.

The talks in Cancun follow on from last year's global summit in Copenhagen which originally aimed to secure a legally-binding treaty on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, but ended in chaos and acrimony and produced only a voluntary political accord on taking action on climate change.

Today Mr Huhne, who is attending the second week of the talks, ruled out any chance of securing a final agreement in Cancun but said he wanted negotiators to get closer to the legally-binding global deal the UK wants from the UN climate process.

"Our objective as the UK Government is we want to see progress which means we get within shouting distance of a serious deal which we can rely on to tackle this massive problem," he said.

He warned that unless the world managed to stop emissions from continuing to climb by 2020, the "prospects for the people on the planet are looking pretty bleak."

He said negotiators in Cancun needed to "keep the show on the road", adding that "success from our point of view means getting closer to the legally binding deal we want".

Mr Huhne said there needed to be efforts to "anchor" the commitments on action made by major players including the US, EU and China under last year's voluntary Copenhagen Accord in the UN process which continued to work towards a deal.

The Government also wants to see progress in Mexico on efforts to fund countries to keep their forests standing, to tackle the major emissions from deforestation, and on ways to provide money for poor countries to cope with the impacts of climate change and develop in a low carbon way.

World leaders at last year's conference in Copenhagen agreed that 100 billion US dollars a year by 2020 should be provided through private and public finances to help develop countries deal with climate change.

But Mr Huhne said the UK was not going to Cancun with any views on which methods for providing financial support it backed, after a high level report laid out a series of possibilities including taxes on international flights and shipping, carbon taxation, private investment and redeploying fossil fuel subsidies.

The UK is keen for Europe to move to the more ambitious end of its range of commitments made last year - a EU-wide cut in emissions of 30% on 1990 levels - which it believes is in the bloc's economic interests.

And the EU is prepared to accept a second phase of the Kyoto Protocol - which developing countries insist on keeping as it is the only legal treaty which commits rich countries to cutting emissions - if a parallel legally-binding treaty to cover countries including the US and China is achieved.

Last year's talks were dominated by clashes between rich and poor countries, particularly over the issue of what to do about the existing Kyoto protocol which commits developed countries - but crucially not the US - to cutting emissions.

Poor countries raised fears they would be left with no legally binding commitments from rich nations to tackle greenhouse gases if the protocol, the first phase of which expires in 2012, was kicked into the long grass.

But there were also accusations China was using the divisions over Kyoto to scupper attempts to secure a legally binding deal on emissions.

Responding to today's comments by Mr Huhne, Friends of the Earth's head of climate Mike Childs said: "Chris Huhne is right that the world will be in serious trouble if we don't curb growth in emissions.

"In Cancun, rich countries should agree tough new targets under the Kyoto Protocol - which commits rich countries to cutting their emissions first and fastest.

"Rich countries must cut their emissions by at least 40% by 2020 without carbon offsetting - and the EU must lead the world in setting the bar high.

"Developing countries also need more public money to grow cleanly and adapt to the impacts of climate change already affecting their people - and rich countries, having polluted the most, have a responsibility to provide this."