A new international treaty to combat climate change will not be ready when 40 world leaders meet next month in Copenhagen but may be finished next year, a top United Nations official has said.
"What we will need after Copenhagen is a little time," said Yvo de Boer, head of the United Nations climate change secretariat. "I don't know how much time to turn that operational language into a treaty, if that is what governments decide."
De Boer told a news conference the Copenhagen meeting could still be a "turning point" in the worldwide fight to reduce emissions that contribute to harmful global warming, but that governments must make their "commitments clear." He added there's no "time to waste."
De Boer spoke at the end of a week of technical-level talks in Barcelona with 4,000 delegates from 180 countries.
He acknowledged that some nations had thought a legally binding treaty could be approved in Copenhagen but that other nations simply saw Copenhagen as place to agree on future targets that would be worked later into a treaty.
"I think I've said for the past year now that I expect Copenhagen to deliver all the key elements of a new international agreement but that there will always be technical work that will have to be done after Copenhagen to get the treaty finalized," De Boer said.
British Prime Minister, French President and various African and Caribbean heads of government or state are among the 40 world leaders who have said they plan to attend the Copenhagen meeting, De Boer said.
The treaty would replace the existing Kyoto Protocol to curb emissions that contribute to global warming.
De Boer called on the United States, which has not signed the Kyoto Protocol, to offer a national target for reducing global warming emissions and join the new treaty.