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Copenhagen climate summit hopes fade as Obama backs postponement | Environment | guardian.co.uk

During a hastily convened breakfast meeting in Singapore...

Barack Obama acknowledged today that time has run out to secure a binding climate deal at Copenhagen and began moving towards a two-stage process that would delay a legal pact until next year at the earliest.

During a hastily convened breakfast meeting in Singapore, the US president supported a Danish plan to salvage something from the moribund negotiations by aiming for a broad political agreement and postponing contentious decisions on emissions targets, financing and technology transfer.

While this falls short of hopes that Copenhagen would lock in place a new action plan for the world, it recognises the lack of progress in recent preparatory talks and the hold-ups of climate legislation in the US Senate. "There was a realistic assessment … by the leaders that it was unrealistic to expect a full internationally legally binding agreement to be negotiated between now and when Copenhagen starts in 22 days," said Michael Froman, deputy national security adviser for economic affairs.

Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, the host and chairman of the climate talks, flew overnight to Singapore to pitch the deferral plan to 19 leaders, including Obama and Chinese president Hu Jintao, at an unscheduled event during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. He insisted that the Copenhagen talks could still set political targets and outline commitments.

"Given the time factor and the situation of individual countries we must, in the coming weeks, focus on what is possible and not let ourselves be distracted by what is not possible," he said. "The Copenhagen agreement should finally mandate continued legal negotiations and set a deadline for their conclusion."

Obama was said to have spoken in support of the proposal, cautioning the group not to let the "perfect be the enemy of the good", Froman said.

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