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Top GHG Emitters Meet At US-Led Climate Change Forum

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice opened a conference of the world’s largest greenhouse-gas emitters today, just a few days after a UN conference on the same subject, The New York Times reports.

Rice said that “climate change is a real problem,” and went on to say that any solution should not “starve economies of the energy that they need to grow and that does not widen the already significant income gap between developed and developing nations.”

The US wants the two-day conference to kick off a 15-month process under which the 16 participating economies will sketch targets for tackling their emissions, examine the possibility of a long-term goal and look at ways of harnessing business and new technology for the carbon cleanup, AFP reports.

Critics say that approach will allow countries to avoid the tough choices they say are needed to slow climate warming and its effects. At the UN conference, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said that contributions to fighting climate change from individual countries or groups of countries were welcome, but could not replace a post-Kyoto agreement overseen by the UN.

Jim Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, insisted today that the conference was meant to supplement, not undercut, a meeting in Bali, Indonesia, from December 3-14. “The goal of our discussions here today is to do what we can to reinforce and to accelerate progress in the United Nations,” he said, according to The Times.

At the UN meeting earlier this week, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon ratcheted up the pressure on the U.S. to help achieve a breakthrough on cutting greenhouse-gas emissions. “I have high expectations of all countries, including the United States,’’ Ban said, noting that it might be a “long and difficult negotiation process.

Diplomats concluded a UN-sponsored climate meeting in Vienna earlier this month with a statement saying industrialized countries should aspire to cut their emissions to 25 percent to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

President Bush announced today’s meeting in May, just before the G8 summit in Germany.

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