Yvo de Boer, a leading U.N. climate official, said participants at informal talks in Indonesia this week agreed that economically developed nations must take the lead in adopting measures to halt the earth's rising temperature.
"The United States came to this meeting with a very constructive position, saying they want to see a launch of negotiations" to be concluded by 2009, he said.
A major summit will be held in December on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, where environment ministers from 80 countries will discuss a replacement for the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.
"The United States and Australia indicated in this meeting they are willing to begin negotiations," de Boer told reporters Thursday. "They are willing take on commitment on the future climate change regime."
The Kyoto agreement requires 36 industrial nations to reduce the heat-trapping gases emitted by power plants and other industrial, agricultural and transportation sources, but critics say it did not go far enough and are pushing for a more stringent regime next time around.
The United States, Australia and some other Western nations do not want to sign onto a new treaty setting caps on emissions unless China and India — who argue that such a deal would impede their booming economies — agree. So far, that seems unlikely.
U.S. Undersecretary of State Paula J. Dobriansky said the Indonesian talks were the "kind of discussion that needs to take place to move us forward."
Dobriansky could not say if the United States would drop its long-standing opposition to forced emission reductions, but noted that a combination of mandatory measures and financial incentives was part of domestic environmental policy.
Greenpeace said the success of the informal meeting "sends a strong political message that governments are ready and willing to negotiate seriously in Bali."
But the Dec. 3-14 Bali summit must result "in deeper emissions cuts from developed countries, broader country participation, and a reduction in carbon emissions through the elimination of deforestation," it said in a statement.Source: International Herald Tribune - AP