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Developing Nations Pledge Actions To Curb Climate Change

Developing Nations Climate Change

By ARTHUR MAX   03/21/11 03:14 PM ET   AP

AMSTERDAM -- Mongolia says it will erect solar power plants in the frigid Gobi desert. The Central African Republic says it will expand its forests to cover a quarter of its territory. Mexico promises to slash carbon emissions by 30 percent by the end of the decade.

Costa Rica and the Maldives aim to become carbon neutral and even chaotic Afghanistan is promising to take action on climate change.

The pledges from dozens of developing countries, compiled by the United Nations and released Monday, are voluntary, and many made them conditional on financial and technical help from the industrial world.

But the list helps bring into focus demands by wealthy countries that everybody reduce greenhouse gases to fight global warming. Scientists say carbon dioxide from industrial processes trap the Earth's heat, causing climates to change in ways that could alter agriculture, raise sea levels and contribute to more extreme weather.

Industrial countries that signed up to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol are obliged to cut carbon emissions by a total 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. Intense negotiations among more than 190 countries have failed to set new targets for those 37 wealthy nation when the Kyoto provisions expire.

Most of the pledges now published by the U.N. climate secretariat in Bonn, Germany, have been announced previously. But their listing in an official U.N. document formalizes those pronouncements.

After a disappointing 2009 summit in Copenhagen, the industrial countries offered self-declared emission reduction targets, but they fell far short of what scientists have said are needed to slow global warming.

Poorer countries agreed to join the richer nations and submit their own climate action plans after the most recent climate conference in Cancun, Mexico, last December.

Some countries kept their pledges vague and brief: China said it would lower its carbon emissions 40-45 percent per unit of production by 2020. India used a similar measure, promising to cut emission intensity by 20-25 percent.

Submissions by others were detailed in the extreme. Ethiopia listed 75 projects, including each new rail line where trains would run by renewable energy.

Argentina, which has outlawed old fashioned light bulbs, specified subsidies for wind and solar energy. The Himalayan nation of Bhutan promised never to emit more carbon than its vast forests can soak up. The Ivory Coast listed a plan for more hydropower, renewable energy and forest management.

Mongolia, in addition to solar units in the desert, wants to give nomadic herders portable wind turbines. It said it still needs to burn coal for home heating in a country were temperatures drop to -40 degrees Celsius (-40 Fahrenheit), but pledged to install more efficient boilers.

Among the agreements reached in Cancun was a plan for a "Green Climate Fund" to administer tens of billions of dollars for developing nations to help them adapt to climate change and help them reduce their own emissions.

But further action to define the fund has been delayed. The Cancun agreements called for a 40-nation "transition committee" to meet by the end of March, but it was deferred until late April amid squabbles among Latin American countries and the Asia bloc about who should be on the committee.

The committee is due to present a complete plan for the fund by the next climate conference in South Africa starting in November.

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Filed by Travis Donovan  |