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Angela Merkel: Binding, Verifiable Climate Targets Needed For All Nations

Angela Merkel Climate Targets

By JUERGEN BAETZ   07/ 3/11 02:50 PM ET   AP

BERLIN -- All nations must commit to binding and verifiable goals to reduce their carbon emissions to reach a new international climate agreement as the Kyoto Protocol expires next year, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday.

"We now need concrete measures in every country," Merkel told environment ministers and negotiators from 35 countries gathered in Berlin to lay the groundwork for an international climate conference in Durban, South Africa, starting November 28.

Germany and the European Union are pushing to agree on "a single and legally binding treaty" replacing the Kyoto Protocol, with industrialized nations taking the lead and emerging economies also contributing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Merkel said.

The 1997 treaty, named after the Japanese city, bound nearly 40 countries to specific emission reductions targets.

"Kyoto expires. That's why we have to make it clear what will be the way forward," Merkel told the representatives at the informal two-day meeting co-chaired by Germany and South Africa.

The conference in Durban is unlikely to yield a final agreement, but major steps in that direction have to be achieved, Merkel said.

"We have a giant task here," she added, referring to resistance from nations reaching from the U.S. to China to agree on ambitious binding climate targets.

Merkel stressed that emission reduction targets must not only be binding, but also verifiable. "As a matter of transparency ... it is necessary that someone can examine whether one sticks to the commitments," Merkel said.

The institution or the process overseeing the progress toward achieving the goals will also have to be agreed on, Merkel said.

Taking steps to fight climate change now comes with a cost and requires efforts, "but inaction would be yet more expensive," she said. "This is a challenge for humankind as a whole."

Scientists say climate change already has begun with more extreme weather events, more frequent heat waves and the melting of Arctic ice.

In the negotiations toward a post-Kyoto agreement, developing countries have insisted that the nearly 40 countries bound to specific reductions targets by the 1997 treaty renew and expand their commitments when they expire in 2012.

But industrialized countries stress they want the rest of the world to show willingness to accept legal obligations, if not now at least in the future.

The last time world leaders tried to break the rich-poor deadlock on climate change was at the 2009 Copenhagen summit, which ended in disillusionment. Instead of a legal agreement, it concluded with a political statement brokered by President Barack Obama that failed to win unanimous approval and adoption by the conference.

Merkel said Sunday that achieving the previously agreed goal of avoiding the planet's overall climate to warm up more than two degrees Celsius will require to get carbon dioxide emissions per head down to two tons, with the U.S. standing at 20 tons, Germany at 10 tons and China above 4 tons.

The chancellor said "emerging economies must share part of the burden because industrialized nations alone cannot reach the goal."

Merkel also said she had "very detailed" discussions on climate change earlier this week with visiting Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, stressing "the fundamental importance it also has for China."

In one of the world's most ambitious climate targets, Germany has pledged to reduce its carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2020 compared to the 1990 level.

In addition, the country decided to abandon nuclear power by 2022 and to replace it mainly by doubling the share of renewable energies in its electricity production to 35 percent within ten years, and to 80 percent by 2050.

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Filed by Travis Donovan  |