Economic crisis and the top three polluters .....

Debt and doubt loom large over Durban climate talks

Environmental activists demonstrate outside the United Nations Climate Change conference (COP17) in Durban December 3, 2011. The protest march was part of a Global Day of Action to demand a fair climate change deal.   REUTERS/Rogan Ward (SOUTH AFRICA - Tags: ENVIRONMENT TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)DURBAN, South Africa (Reuters) - Economic crisis and the top three polluters China, the United States and India, loomed as obstacles to a new global deal at the start of a second make-or-break week of U.N. climate talks in the South African city of Durban.

After a first week of preliminary discussion, serious doubt hangs over the future of the Kyoto Protocol, whose first commitment period on tackling climate change expires at the end of next year.

The other major issue for debate is how to drum up finance to help poorer nations adapt to a warmer planet, while the developed world wrestles with sovereign debt problems.

China, the world's biggest carbon emitter, gave a lift to the climate talks at the end of last week by suggesting it might sign up to a legally-binding deal to cut emissions, but it has set conditions.

"China has talked about a legally binding deal after 2020. The question is if China will be legally-bound. That would be interesting," EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said.

China failed to answer that question at a news conference and a European diplomatic source said it was bluffing.

"There's no way China will sign up legally, but it doesn't want to be blamed if the talks fail," the source said, asking not to be named.

China's conditions include that other big emitters sign up and that finance is provided under a Green Climate Fund agreed at talks last year in Cancun, which aims to channel up to $100 billion a year by 2020 to help developing nations.

The U.S. special envoy for climate change Todd Stern said China's conditions were not acceptable.

"In order for there to be a legally-binding agreement that makes sense, all the major players are going to have to be in with obligations and commitments that have the same legal force," Stern said.

"That means no conditionality, no condition of receiving the financing, no trap doors, no Swiss cheese (with holes) kind of agreement.".....Read more...