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Global air pollution increases while politicians struggle with difficult choices at the Climate Change conference in South Africa

Reuters: "We're just hoping to get back to the climate when the sovereign debt crisis is solved," said one political aide who is not leaving Brussels. Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said he had nightmares after the stress of the negotiations in Copenhagen.

Journalists are also staying away in droves. For Copenhagen, media interest reached a peak of more than 3,200. Less than half that number has registered to attend the Durban talks, according to provisional figures from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Valdrin Xhemaj / EPA

An electrical worker at work on an electrical pylon as smoke rises from a power plant in the town of Obilic, Kosovo, Dec. 1. Media reports state that delegates from 195 countries are presently gathering in Durban, South Africa, during the 17th Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 17).

China is the world's biggest emitter with 25 percent of the global total in 2010, according to figures from energy company BP, followed by the United States with 19 percent.

Asked about the risk that the Kyoto Protocol is abandoned, EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said: "I would call it a risk as long as you do not have anything to put in place instead, so that is the challenge."

Alexander Joe / AFP - Getty Images

Performers wearing large masks dance in Durban on Dec. 1, as part of the entertainment for the UN-Climate change Conference. New tensions and alignments are emerging at the UN talks, reflecting subtle but far-reaching changes in the geopolitics of climate change. Delegates and veteran observers say the shifts challenge the very heart of the nearly two-decade-old climate process, which until now has neatly divided the world into two blocs -- the north and the south, the rich and the poor.

Of the three 2020 targets the EU pledged in 2007, two are binding - to cut carbon by 20 percent by 2020 and to increase the share of renewable energy by 20 percent - and it is on track to meet them. The third target to improve energy efficiency, through measures such as insulation, by 20 percent is not compulsory and so far the EU is only expected to half meet it.

Nic Bothma / EPA

A delegate works on his tablet on the floor of the COP 17 Exhibition Center during the COP 17 / CMP 7 United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference 2011 in Durban, South Africa, Dec. 1. COP 17 is the 17th session of the Congress of the Parties (COP) comprising 194 countries meeting to discuss the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) between 28 November and 09 December 2011.


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