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Agreement on climate change looks unlikely ahead of Copenhagen

A European Union agreement last week was short on specifics. US commitments on reductions may not be forthcoming, making Chinese commitments also unlikely.

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The world is moving toward December climate change talks that have been described in some quarters as "pivotal." But a European Union agreement, signed last week, sheds light on how tenuous the prospects are for a comprehensive deal any time soon.

UN-sponsored talks are scheduled in Copenhagen, and it was initially hoped they would extend the emissions-cutting targets of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. But Artur Runge-Metzger, head of the European delegation at a preliminary meeting in Barcelona for the Copenhagen negotiations, said Thursday that a deal was unlikely on schedule. "There is a lot of work still to be done," he told reporters.

Last week, European Union officials lauded their internal agreement – which determined that $150 billion would be needed over the next decade to combat climate change – as evidence of a united front heading toward Copenhagen.

These officials claim the agreement will give them leverage in negotiations with China and the United States, both of which have been reluctant to name specific targets for emission reduction. House Democrats – over a threatened Republican boycott – are currently pushing a bill through committee that would cap US emissions.

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