World political leaders must step into climate negotiations in the next few months to unlock disputes over reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the U.N.'s top climate official said Friday.
Wrapping up a two-week negotiating session among more than 180 countries, Christiana Figueres said it will take "high-level political attention" to resolve mutual demands between industrial countries treaty-bound to reduce carbon emissions and countries who have now have no legal obligations on fighting global warming.
Figueres said countries are now looking at a "global mitigation framework" for controlling the gases blamed for climate change, which scientists say already has begun.
Developing countries insist that the nearly 40 countries bound to specific reductions targets by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol renew and expand their commitments when they expire in 2012.
But the wealthy countries say they want the rest of the world to show willingness to accept legal obligations, if not now at least in the future.
"Resolving the future of the Kyoto Protocol is an essential task this year and will require high-level political guidance," Figueres told reporters, but it also is part of a bigger picture.
South Africa, which hosts the next major climate conference in Durban beginning Nov. 28, has called for two ministerial meetings and a meeting of heads of government on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in September.
The last time world leaders tried to break the rich-poor deadlock on climate change was at the 2009 Copenhagen summit, which ended in disillusionment and a political statement brokered by President Barack Obama rather than a legal agreement.