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Obama dives into Copenhagen talks

December 18, 2009 |  2:26 am

President Obama brought a blast of optimism to the snowy streets of Copenhagen this morning, diving into climate negotiations in their final hours.

The President arrived on Air Force One and immediately swung into the talks, meeting with leaders from Europe, China and several other wealthy and poor nations, in hopes of reaching a new international agreement on controlling greenhouse gases.

Obama was meeting with the heads of Britain, Australia, France, Denmark, Norway, Germany, the European Commission, Japan, South Korea, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Russia, India, Mexico, Spain and Columbia, along with “a representative” from China, the White House said.

The large-group discussion came as summit organizers were working through a new draft of an agreement, though officials close to the talks cautioned that several key points were still in flux on the scheduled last day of the conference.

Later today, Obama is scheduled to address the entire summit briefly, in a speech that aides said would "reaffirm America's commitment" to climate action

Underscoring the importance delegates here have attached to the President’s visit, large-screen televisions in the host Bella Center broadcast live BBC news footage of Obama’s limousine driving in from the Copenhagen airport. Delegates and observers of the talks paused in the hallways to watch.

Nations gathered here have long abandoned hopes of hammering out a new global warming treaty to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which the United States never ratified. Instead, they’re seeking a declaration on warming that would be a framework for a new treaty, with a goal of finalizing that treaty next year.

Even the limited success of such a framework declaration still depends, after another overnight negotiating session, on two issues that have vexed diplomats throughout the two-week summit: an agreement between America and China on how to ensure that fast-developing nations follow through with their pledges to limit emissions; and whether poor nations will accept smaller emission cuts than they would like from wealthy countries in exchange for hundreds of billions of dollars in financial assistance.

Negotiators made strides on both fronts Thursday after weeks of classic hardball bargaining that included public barbs and little budging.

After negotiations spilled over into Friday morning, several environmentalists close to the discussions said they saw continued movement toward an agreement on transparency.

Read more about the penultimate-day action in this morning's Los Angeles Times.

--Jim Tankersley in Copenhagen