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Climate change negotiators in Cancun look to bridge gaps

There's an expanding rift between developed and developing countries over whether to extend the 1997 Kyoto Protocol goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions beyond the 2012 limits.

Activists walk behind a banner reading "Climate" during a protest march against climate change in Mexico City December 3. China accused some developed nations at U.N. climate talks held in the Mexican beach resort of Cancun of seeking to kill the Kyoto Protocol pact to curb global warming.

Claudia Daut/Reuters

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UN-sponsored global climate talks in Cancun, Mexico, have recorded progress on several issues as negotiators wrap up the first of two weeks of work.

At the same time, however, negotiators are looking for ways to bridge what for the moment seems to be an expanding rift between developed and developing countries over whether to extend the 1997 Kyoto Protocol beyond the end of its first enforcement period. The protocol requires countries it covers to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions by an average of 5.5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.

Brinkmanship is nothing new in diplomatic negotiations. Experienced negotiators caution that talks such as these tend to get testy as the first week ends and ministers with the political authority to make deals begin to arrive for a second week of higher-level talks.

Still, the dispute “is hanging like the sword of Damocles over this conference,” says Artur Runge-Metzger, the European Union’s lead negotiator.

The broad positions of each group aren’t a secret.

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