PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd has fleshed out what is required from the Copenhagen climate conference, saying it must provide set targets to cut greenhouse-gas emissions to limit global warming to 2 degrees.
Responding to upbeat assessments of a US-China communique on climate change, the Prime Minister said next month's summit must be comprehensive, specific and offer more than just ''political principles''.
It is accepted that Copenhagen will not produce a treaty; the issue has become how broad and detailed the agreement and commitments will be, and whether they can lead to a treaty in 2010.
Mr Rudd warned there was a danger ''that some assume … this Copenhagen agreement should somehow drift off into a statement of anodyne political principles''.
He said Australia, the US and conference hosts Denmark were pushing hard ''for an operational framework agreement capable of giving real guidance to technical negotiators to translate into a legally binding global treaty''.
Mr Rudd said ''a lot of us'' were burning the midnight oil to get what the Danish Prime Minister, Lars Loekke Rasmussen, called a two-step agreement.
On a domestic climate policy front, Mr Rudd continued to put pressure on Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull over the divisions in his ranks on emissions trading. He challenged Mr Turnbull to provide an assurance to Parliament that the Opposition would not block a vote on the legislation in the Senate, where debate started yesterday.
Mr Rudd said a climate deal must include emissions reductions targets from developed countries, commitments on action from developing countries and agreement on a climate finance scheme and transfer of clean technology.
If Copenhagen could produce an agreement that ''gets some landing point on key elements, then you are capable of providing the guidance for the next step.''
Climate observers said the joint US-China communique released in Beijing on Tuesday night was a small but important step towards a meaningful agreement.
Of the stumbling blocks to a legal treaty, the inability of the US to offer an greenhouse gas emissions reduction target while its climate change bill is mired in the Senate is seen as the biggest.
But the communique has been interpreted as US President Barack Obama signalling he has enough guidance from Congress to take a target to the summit. The US Senate is considering a bill that would cut emissions 20 per cent below 2005 levels before 2020 - about an 8 per cent cut below 1990, the baseline year adopted by the United Nations.
President Obama said the aim was ''not a partial accord or a political declaration, but rather an accord that covers all of the issues in the negotiations and one that has immediate operational effect''.
Jake Schmidt, international climate policy director with the Washington-based Natural Resources Defence Council, said the presidents did not agree to ''the big ticket items' but had stressed that Copenhagen could produce more than a ''mere piece of paper that has no meaning''.
The statement also suggested the US and China - which are responsible for about 40 per cent of emissions - were prepared to sign their climate change policies into an international treaty. Neither country has committed to this.