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Rethinking carbon diplomacy

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Climate change was initially billed in a leading role at the G20 meeting in Pittsburgh. Now it looks set to make the briefest of cameo appearances.

Nonetheless, the gathering offers a crucial chance to recast the talks. The United Nations carbon process is in deep trouble and desperately needs help from the top. If the G20 heads of government want to avoid embarrassment at the Copenhagen Summit, they need to start to steer the talks in a new direction.

The first step is to move away from the flawed Kyoto model on which the talks are based. Haggling over overall emissions caps is unproductive. Nations have an incentive to push for targets that are easy to hit — giving themselves plenty of headroom in the event of faster economic growth.

Even then, it is hard to check up on compliance, since countries like China and India lack the ability to track their emissions.

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