SHANGHAI - The United States does not expect to reach an agreement on climate change with China during President Barack Obama's visit to Beijing next month, the country's senior climate change envoy said on Wednesday.
I don't think we are getting any agreement per se, said Todd Stern, U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change.
I think (Obama) is trying to talk to President Hu, to push toward as much common understanding as we possibly can in order to facilitate an agreement in Copenhagen, Stern told reporters.
Negotiators gather in the Danish capital in December to draft a new accord aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, with the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol set to expire in 2012.
Progress in the talks has remained slow, with the United States reluctant to commit itself to a deal that does not oblige developing countries like China to agree to mandatory CO2 reduction targets.
Chinese negotiators have also said the industrialized world should bear the bulk of the burden in cutting carbon emissions.
The meeting between Obama and President Hu Jintao, leaders of the world's two biggest greenhouse gas emitters, is seen as a crucial component in the efforts to build a consensus around any new global climate pact.
Maria Cantwell, a Democratic Senator from Washington State, said in Beijing last month that China and the United States are likely to sign a bilateral agreement during Obama's visit. But Stern said Washington was not trying to cut a separate deal.
The two sides are likely to discuss further cooperation next month on issues like carbon capture and storage, but the differences between the two sides will make it difficult to formulate any substantive agreement, analysts said.
There will be lots of kind words and lots of talk but I don't think it will amount to much, not least because we are moving toward Copenhagen and I don't think they want to show their hand yet, said Paul Harris, professor of global and environmental studies at the Hong Kong Institute of Education.
With Copenhagen six weeks away, Stern warned that success was by no means guaranteed.
Copenhagen can be a success, said Stern, There's a deal to be had, but it doesn't mean we can get it.
The Obama administration's attempt to push through its own climate plan before the end of the year is expected to be crucial, analysts suggest.
The U.S. Senate Environment Committee is holding hearings on a new climate bill this week.
The administration has been urging Congress to move forward, and further delays might dent the credibility of the United States during the Copenhagen talks.
(Reporting by Rujun Shen and David Stanway, Editing by Ron Popeski)