NEW YORK - The U.S. would not consider a climate deal "genuinely binding" if it excludes the biggest emerging economies or if those countries' commitments were conditional upon financial support from developed countries, the lead U.S. climate negotiator said Monday.
Todd Stern, U.S. special climate change envoy, said certain developing countries are seeking "escape hatches" that would let them back off their emission reduction targets if industrialized countries fail to deliver financial support.
The head of the U.S.' climate delegation briefed reporters on Monday on the outcome of last weekend's Major Economies Forum, which was the 12th gathering of 17 of the world's biggest emitters from the developing and developed world.
Stern said the central area of discussion during the U.S.-led meeting, held on September 16-17 at the State Department, was whether there should be new regime to replace the Kyoto Protocol or if it should be extended after the first commitment period ends in 2012.
The U.S., the world's second largest emitter, never ratified the Kyoto Protocol amid concerns by its lawmakers that fast-growth countries like China — the world's largest emitter — did not have legally-binding commitments under the treaty.
The climate envoy said it would not back an agreement that does not apply "equal legal force to major developing countries" like China, India and Brazil.
"You can't just go forward with a new legal agreement that is based on the same exact structure," he said.
Stern's remarks came as Christiana Figueres, the U.N.'s top climate change official, said that the upcoming U.N. climate conference in Durban can not avoid a decision on the future of the Kyoto Protocol.
"There has to be a clear decision as to how the global collective effort - not only of industrialized countries — but how the global collective effort to reduce emissions will go forward and how that will be done in a transparent manner, with greater ambition growing over time," she said at a press conference at the U.N on Monday afternoon.
With Durban just 11 weeks away, U.N. parties have started to float options on the possible post-2012 future.
Australia and Norway submitted a new proposal, which would push back a decision on a legally-binding deal that includes emission targets for developed and developing countries by four years.
Stern said participants at the MEF meeting did not discuss the countries' proposal.
He also added that among developed countries, the EU is alone in its support of a proposal to extend the Kyoto Protocol beyond its current 2012 limit if other big emitters pledge to join a wider deal at a later date.
"Of the major players in the Kyoto protocol, my sense is that the EU is the only one still considering signing up in some fashion to a second commitment period," he said.
While the political deadlock over the future of Kyoto likely to consume the upcoming climate talks in Durban at the end of November, both Stern and the UNFCCC's Figueres said they are optimistic that progress can be made on some technical areas, which had widespread support last year in Cancun.
Both said they expect progress can be made to finalize the structure of the Green Fund, which aims to mobilize up to $100 billion a year in climate aid for developing countries.
They also said they expect to finalize guidelines for the transparent reporting and monitoring of emissions and the emissions-reducing activities pledged by countries.
Parties at last year's climate summit in Cancun said they would engage in a review starting in 2013 but rules for the review need to be decided before that takes place.
(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici)