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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

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William La Jeunesse

Los Angeles, CA

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Kerry: Next 12 Hours Are Critical

December 16, 2009 - 11:38 AM | by: William La Jeunesse

Sen. John Kerry says the next 12 hours of the Copenhagen would be critical to the success of the conference.

But he hoped differences would be resolved, since success at the conference here is critical to passage of climate control legislation in the U.S. next year.

The Massachusetts senator also attempted to explain why climate legislation is such a tough sell in the U.S. Congress.

“Ninety-seven percent of new emissions in the next 20 years will come from developing nations,” he said, adding that by 2020 China’s emissions alone will be 40 percent higher than those in the U.S.

That’s why the U.S., Japan, Korea and the European Union nations are reluctant to agree to harsh, binding emission reductions if pollution from developing nations is not contained.

“We should not let the developing world repeat our mistake. We have to help them grow their economies.”

He conceded this might be a tough sell among Americans who are still somewhat skeptical about climate change claims, saying the debate “has not been fully embraced in the United States.”

With the arrival of many world leaders less than 24 hours away, the conference faces the prospect of having no final document to sign unless progress can be made on three key points.

1) Peaking Year Emissions
The U.S. and other wealthy countries have peaked in emissions. These countries have the ability to reduce them through efficiency. But countries like China and India are going to take 30 years or more before they peak in emissions. That’s a huge gap to close. The developing countries don’t want to agree to a number that would strain their economy, with the Chinese and others saying it would be almost impossible to give an accurate date for emissions peak.

2) Temper, Temperature
Scientists say if you keep global temperatures within 2 Celsius of the historical norm — you can avert disaster. But now other scientists are saying that number is actually 1.5 Celsius. If the temperature rises too high, smaller islands like the Maldives will be gobbled up by melting glaciers. The new document actually uses the 2 degrees Celsius figure. The smaller countries and island want the 1.5 figure – they say they face eventual extinction if the number isn’t changed.

3) Verification
If a nation agrees to cut emissions by 10 percent, some will claim a one percent reduction against U.N. targets to go towards the 10 percent. U.S. and other wealthy countries don’t trust the verification of the countries’ claims. They want a better verification and record system. This has been a considerable point of contention between developing and the developed countries.

The Danish prime minister is trying to say yes to the next text — accept that we have differences, but let’s move forward. At this point, we don’t know what India, China and other developing nations are going to do. They may pull out of negotiations, or they may try to save face and act like everyone’s claimed victory.

Right now, we just don’t know what the next step is.

Click here for more LIVESHOTS: Front Seat in Copenhagen

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