OSLO--The United States is asking for ideas about how to tackle global warming without raising expectations of breakthroughs in 2010 ahead of climate talks among the world's top emitters on Sunday in Washington.
A document obtained by Reuters on Friday listing U.S. questions to delegates from 16 other major economies shows the two-day talks will focus on the fate of U.N. climate talks, the non-binding Copenhagen Accord, and the Kyoto Protocol.
It does not answer key questions such as what the United States, the biggest emitter behind China, plans to do under any future U.N. plan. U.S. legislation to cap greenhouse gas emissions is stalled in the U.S. Senate.
Instead it shows that major nations may have to go back to the drawing board after the Copenhagen summit failed to come up with a binding deal at the climax of two years of U.N. negotiations.
"The general focus of the meeting: what are the key issues that need to be addressed in order to have a successful outcome?" it asks of preparations for the next annual talks of environment ministers in Cancun, Mexico, November 29 through December 10.
"What is the outcome we are all seeking in Cancun? A set of decisions; a legally binding agreement; something else?" according to the document, signed by Michael Froman, deputy White House national security adviser, and U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern.
The Major Economies Forum, set up by President Barack Obama last year, will have its first meeting since Copenhagen in Washington on Sunday and Monday. It groups top emitters led by China, the United States, the European Union, Russia, and India.
The U.N.'s top climate official, Yvo de Boer, said during 175-nation talks in Bonn, Germany, April 9-11 that he did not expect major breakthroughs in Cancun.
Many other delegates said any strong deal to slow desertification, mudslides, floods, species extinctions, and rising sea levels was likely to have to wait for 2012 after December's Copenhagen summit failed to agree a treaty. The document asks about what to do with the Copenhagen Accord, a non-binding deal from the summit that seeks to limit a rise in world temperatures to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees F) above pre-industrial times. It also holds out the prospect of $100 billion a year in aid for developing nations from 2020.
Washington strongly supports the accord but many emerging economies do not want it to supplant the 1992 U.N. Climate Convention, which more clearly spells out that rich nations have to take the lead in combating climate change.
On aid, the document asks, "where do we stand on fast-start funding and what is the plan going forward?" The accord outlines $10 billion a year for developing nations from 2010-12.
It also asks, "what is your working assumption about the Kyoto Protocol?"
The United States is the only industrialized nation outside the existing Kyoto Protocol, the U.N. plan obliging them to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by an average of at least 5 percent below 1990 levels during the period 2008-12.
The document notes that industrialized nations have been unwilling to take on new commitments beyond 2012 under Kyoto unless the United States and major emerging nations also sign up for a "new legal agreement."
By contrast, developing nations have insisted that the rich must show the way and sign up for a new Kyoto. "What is the current thinking about how to bridge this gap?" it asks.