November 29, 2010 / 6:02 AM / 9 years ago

UN climate talks seek to bridge rich-poor divide

* Two-week U.N. climate talks start in Cancun

* Host Mexico says to help prepare for hotter world

* EU says emerging economies must set firmer targets

By Timothy Gardner and Robert Campbell

CANCUN, Mexico, Nov 29 (Reuters) - A new round of U.N. climate talks opens on Monday with almost 200 nations meeting in Mexico in hopes of clinching an agreement on a narrow range of crunch issues dividing rich and emerging economies.

The two-week conference at the beach resort of Cancun aims to agree on funds and approaches to preserve rain forests and prepare for a hotter world. It will also seek to formalize existing targets to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Fanfare is far below levels of last year’s Copenhagen summit which aimed to agree a new climate deal but ended instead with a non-binding agreement rejected by a clutch of developing countries.

The long-running U.N. talks have pitted against each other the world’s top two emitters, the United States and China, with U.S. demands for greater Chinese emissions curbs echoing similar pressure on free trade and human rights.

On the eve of the talks, Mexican President Felipe Calderon pointed to the economic opportunities from fighting climate change, aiming to end the distrust of the previous summit.

“This dilemma between protecting the environment and fighting poverty, between combating climate change and economic growth is a false dilemma,” he said pointing to renewable energy as he inaugurated a wind turbine to power the conference hotel.

Calderon said the talks would focus on preparations for a hotter world, a central concern for poorer countries. “Basically, what we’re going to discuss is adaptation,” he said.

That comment jarred European Union negotiators, who said that the talks must also achieve harder commitments to existing emissions pledges, including from developing countries.

“We will look for a limited set of decisions in Cancun. We hope we will lay out the path forward,” Artur Runge-Metzger, a senior EU negotiator, said on Sunday.

“We do see the outlines of a compromise,” said Peter Wittoeck, senior negotiator with Belgium, which holds the rotating EU presidency.

The main aim of the talks is to agree a tougher climate deal to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, whose present round ends in 2012, to step up action to fight warming.

World temperatures could soar by 4 degrees Celsius (7.2F) by the 2060s in the worst case of climate change and require annual investment of $270 billion just to contain rising sea levels, studies suggested on Sunday. (Writing by Gerard Wynn, Editing by Jackie Frank)

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