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UN discusses new climate treaty

Countries have been locked in debate over whether to press ahead with a new legal climate treaty, as the latest round of UN global warming talks in South Africa entered their final hours.

On the table at the talks in Durban are plans to launch a process to develop a "legal framework", covering all countries, to cut greenhouse gas emissions after 2020.

Under the current plans, the new treaty would be agreed by 2015.

The proposals, which call for action to cut emissions in order to keep global temperatures from rising by more than 2C above pre-industrial levels, also say that countries will have to strengthen current efforts to tackle global warming.

Europe has been calling for the UN talks to agree a mandate to negotiate, by 2015, a legally-binding climate deal covering all major economies, in return for the bloc signing up to a second period of emissions cuts under the existing Kyoto treaty.

The EU wants action from other countries because the Kyoto Protocol, which was never ratified by the US and does not cover major economies such as China, accounts for just 15% of world greenhouse gas emissions. But it is not yet clear if major players such as the US, China and India will sign up to a road map to a legal deal negotiated by an agreed date.

There are also calls to address the "emissions gap" between the voluntary pledges countries have made to cut greenhouse gases and the reductions needed by 2020 to keep the world on track to keep rises to 2C and avoid "dangerous" climate change.

The deal on the table recognises the need to strengthen efforts, boost ambition taking into account a new global scientific assessment of climate change due out in 2013 and consider whether efforts should be made to keep temperature rises to just 1.5C.

UK Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne earlier said a "high-ambition coalition" of countries was pushing for a strong deal which delivered carbon emissions reductions.

He said Europe was standing firm in its determination to get countries to sign up to negotiating a new legally binding global agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions - and now spoke for the majority of countries.

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