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Hopes high climate deal in reach

PORT OF SPAIN, Nov 28 – Hopes were rising on Saturday that a new global climate pact is within reach after rich nations at a Commonwealth summit offered to help poorer countries bear the costs of implementing any deal.

The 53-nation body embracing major global players like Britain, Australia and India, and smaller island states like Nauru and the Maldives, were expected to issue a joint commitment to tackling climate change.

"Success in Copenhagen is in sight," said UN chief Ban Ki-moon, referring to the climate negotiations in the Danish capital December 7-18.

He and Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen, who both made a rare address to the Commonwealth even though they are not members, praised a move by Britain and France to launch a 10-billion-dollar fund for developing nations.

By showing willingness to meet "the need for money on the table," it was now "realistic" to expect Copenhagen to result in the framework for a treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2012, Rasmussen said.

"We should use the momentum out there and convert this momentum into an ambitious deal in Copenhagen."

But he stressed the deal to be hammered out by some 87 leaders including US President Barack Obama must include "commitments, numbers and precise language."

Ban, who has led the push towards Copenhagen, agreed it must not become just another talking shop, saying: "We will come out with a very concrete foundation for a legally binding treaty."

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For the first time Indian Premier Manmohan Singh Saturday said that he was willing to commit his country to ambitious global carbon emission cuts, provided others shared the burden.

Much of the new momentum for a climate deal stemmed from a joint overture by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the Commonwealth gathering, whose leaders represent two billion people, or a third of the planet\\\’s population.

The two European leaders proposed to compensate developing countries for the economic disadvantages they would face in cutting carbon emissions.

Britain said it had already set aside 1.3 billion dollars to be paid into the Copenhagen Launch Fund over the next three years.

"Poorer countries must have an understanding that the richer countries will help them adapt to climate change and make the necessary adjustments in their economies," Brown said on his website.

Sarkozy, who was also specially invited by Brown to address the Commonwealth summit in Trinidad, did not say how much France would contribute.

But he told reporters the fund would operate for the next three years, beyond which an "ambitious mechanism" for continued payments would be established.

Australia\\\’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd also welcomed what he called "a fast-start fund."

"Australia is of the view that such a fast-start fund can assist in bringing about a good outcome at Copenhagen, but most critically, assist those most vulnerable states dealing with adaptation challenges now," he said.

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The willingness of developed countries to step up their commitments bolstered other moves that suggested nations are now determined to reach an accord.

Important among those were carbon cut pledges by almost all the nations most responsible for greenhouse gas emissions.

China, the world\\\’s biggest polluter, has vowed to reduce "carbon intensity" as measured by unit of gross domestic product by 40-45 percent by 2020, compared to 2005 levels.

The United States, the other major contributor to global warming, is looking at curbing carbon emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020.

The European Union is unilaterally cutting emissions by 20 percent by 2020 compared to 1990 levels, and is offering to go to 30 percent if other industrialised parties follow suit.

India, home to nearly 1.2 billion people, is the only major greenhouse gas emitting nation yet to announce figures on reining in its carbon output, with just over a week to go until UN climate talks start in Copenhagen.

"India is willing to sign on to an ambitious global target for emissions reductions or limiting temperature increase but this must be accompanied by an equitable burden sharing paradigm," Singh said in a speech, the text of which was released by his office in New Delhi.

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