NEW DELHI - Despite fears of failure facing global climate change negotiations in December, the U.N. climate panel chief said on Wednesday it was still possible to agree a pact, including levels of emission cuts by rich nations.
Talks for a treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which obliges 37 rich nations to cut emissions by an average of 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12, are deadlocked on the question of cuts to be taken by rich and poorer countries.
Developed nations will also have to come up with billions of dollars in climate aid and green technologies for the poor.
The wiggle room is there even at the stroke of midnight when the conference is ending, said Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Now I am not saying that's a very healthy development and that probably involves a lot of compromises that may or may not be the best possible.
Delegates from nearly 200 countries meet in Copenhagen in December to try to agree on a broader climate pact to replace the U.N.'s Kyoto Protocol, whose first phase ends in 2012.
Developing nations are under no obligation to commit to binding economy-wide emission cuts under existing U.N. treaties.
But many larger developing countries, such as India, say they are taking steps anyway to curb the growth of their emissions, such as increased use of renewable energy and imposing energy efficiency standards, to help seal a global deal.
Developing countries are among the most threatened by climate change, but their huge populations mean they will still be heavily reliant on burning fossil fuels to try to lift millions out of poverty.
For instance, about half a billion people in India still don't have access to electricity, making it necessary to use cheap, dirty coal for almost 70 percent of its power needs.
Rich countries say developing nations should also agree cuts because their emissions are growing at a faster pace. China is the world's top greenhouse gas emitter, while Indonesia says it is ranked third, mainly because of deforestation.
I frankly think that at this point of time we shouldn't get unduly swayed by utterances and postures because...every country is trying to see that we get a global deal that everybody wants but with zero cost to ourselves, Pachauri told reporters.
Apart from possible deals on emission cuts by rich nations and finance for actions by developing countries to fight global warming, Pachauri said the world could also ink a pact to avoid deforestation.
In return, Pachauri said, poorer nations were most likely to commit themselves to domestic measures, but he was not sure if those actions would be verifiable or reportable as demanded by rich countries, referring to ways to independently check whether such actions really do cut emissions.
If we get something that clearly puts us on the right path, gives us certain milestones in the future which the world is going to achieve, it is entirely possible that the pace will be accelerated as we move along.
(Editing by David Fogarty)