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President Shimon Peres is expected to announce a specific emissions reduction goal somewhere in the vicinity of 15 to 30 percent in an address Thursday to the UN-sponsored climate negotiations, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan's adviser Aviad Oren told The Jerusalem Post.
Peres will deliver his speech along with over 100 other world leaders as the negotiations enter their final push. While the announcement would signify a major step forward for Israel, it comes as the talks themselves are deadlocked over several key issues and after protests turned violent on Wednesday.
The specific goal does not refer to reducing emissions below current levels. Rather, it refers to lowering the expected growth by 15-30%. For example, emissions are expected to double by 2030 if Israel takes no action, so Peres would be committing to reduce that growth by a certain amount by 2020. Oren pointed out that McKinsey & Co.'s analysis of Israel's reduction potential was estimated at 20% by 2020, so Peres is likely to announce a goal somewhere in that range.
Announcing such a goal would put Israel on the frontlines of the developing countries in terms of commitments, some of whom are reluctant to commit to specific numbers at all. Israel has also been advocating a verification mechanism, possibly even backed by international inspections, to ensure that countries are upholding their commitments. That is unusual among the developing nations who are not keen on inspections.
One of the key disputes at the negotiations is the developed countries' insistence that developing countries take upon themselves verifiable emissions reduction goals. The developing countries have been resistant to such declarations without more far-reaching commitments from developed countries to reduce their emissions and more funding from the developed countries to pay for the cuts.
Upon arriving in Copenhagen, Peres took time to charge Better Place's electric car at its exhibition in the Danish capital. Better Place was founded by Israeli Shai Agassi, who intends to get the first charging infrastructure for electric cars up and running in Israel in 2011.
Meanwhile, Danish police fired pepper spray and beat violent protesters with batons outside the conference Wednesday, as disputes inside left major issues unresolved just two days before world leaders hope to sign a historic agreement to fight global warming.
Hundreds of protesters were trying to disrupt the 193-nation conference, the latest action in days of demonstrations to demand "climate justice" - firm steps to combat global warming. Police said 230 protesters were detained.
Inside the cavernous convention hall, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, among the first leaders to address the assembly, echoed the protesters' sentiments.
"If the climate was a bank, a capitalist bank, they would have saved it," he said.
Earlier, behind closed doors, negotiators dealing with core issues debated until just before dawn Wednesday without setting new goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions or for financing poorer countries' efforts to cope with coming climate change, key elements of any deal.
"I regret to report we have been unable to reach agreement," John Ashe of Antigua, chairman of one negotiating group, told the conference.
In those talks, the American delegation apparently objected to a proposed text it felt might bind the United States prematurely to reducing greenhouse gas emissions before Congress acts on the required legislation. US envoys insisted, for example, on replacing the word "shall" with the conditional "should."
"A lot of things are in play," said Fred Krupp of the US Environmental Defense Fund. "This is the normal rhythm of international negotiations."
Hundreds of protesters marched on the suburban Bella Center, where lines of Danish riot police waited in protective cordons. Some demonstrators said they wanted to take over the global conference and turn it into a "people's assembly."
As they approached police lines, they were hit with pepper spray. TV pictures showed a man who had jumped onto a police van's roof being pulled down and struck with a baton by an officer.
Tens of thousands rallied peacefully in the Danish capital last weekend, demonstrating growing public awareness of the worldwide danger of ever-rising temperatures. Many scientists say global warming will lead to the extinction of plant and animal species, the flooding of coastal areas from rising seas, more extreme weather, more drought and more widespread diseases.
The Copenhagen talks so far have been marked by sharp disagreements between China and the United States, and between rich and poor nations. Still unresolved are the questions of emissions targets for industrial countries, billions of dollars a year in funding for poor countries to contend with global warming, and verifying the actions of emerging powers like China and India to ensure that promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are kept.
Addressing the full conference, Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren, speaking for the European Union, urged the US and China to raise their emissions-reduction targets.
"The world needs more and we are confident that you have the ability to deliver more," he said of the two countries.
After nine days of largely unproductive talks, the lower-level delegates were handing off the disputes to environment ministers in the two-week conference's critical second phase.
Connie Hedegaard, a former Danish climate minister, resigned from the conference presidency to allow Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen to preside as a higher-ranking official at the formal Wednesday-Friday segment involving heads of state and government. She was to continue overseeing closed-door negotiations.
Organizers still hope to break deadlocks that threaten to leave the meeting with no major accomplishments to be presented to President Barack Obama, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and more than 110 other world leaders arriving for Friday's finale.
The lack of progress disheartened many, including small island states threatened by rising seas.
"We are extremely disappointed," Ian Fry of the tiny Pacific nation of Tuvalu said on the conference floor. "I have the feeling of dread we are on the Titanic and sinking fast. It's time to launch the lifeboats."
Others were far from abandoning ship. "Obviously there are things we are concerned about, but that is what we have to discuss," Sergio Barbosa Serra, Brazil's climate ambassador, told The Associated Press. "I would like to think we can get a deal, a good and fair deal."
Governments had weeks ago given up hope of concluding a finished treaty at Copenhagen and aimed instead at establishing a framework for negotiating more formal agreements next year.
Much of the uncertainty in the Copenhagen talks stems from how slowly the first US legislation to cap carbon dioxide emissions is moving through Congress. Passage of a US climate change bill is expected no earlier than next spring - and many other nations are unwilling to make their final commitments until the US does.
A sponsor of that climate legislation, US Sen. John Kerry, a Democrat from Massachusetts, was not discouraged about the fitful negotiations.
"My sense is we can get this done," he told the AP at Copenhagen, where he was visiting the conference.