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By David Fogarty, Climate Change Correspondent, Asia
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Asia Pacific leaders backed away on Saturday from supporting a global halving of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, even as Brazil pledged deep cuts of its own over the next decade.
An initial draft leaders' statement from an Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Singapore had said that "global emissions will need to ... be reduced to 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050."
But a later, watered-down version stated: "We believe that global emissions will need to peak over the next few years, and be substantially reduced by 2050, recognising that the timeframe for peaking will be longer in developing economies."
APEC includes the top two greenhouse gas emitters -- China and the United States -- and its meeting is the last major gathering of global decision-makers before a U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen in three weeks, meant to ramp up efforts to fight climate change.
Its retreat may further dampen hopes that the Copenhagen meeting can yield a legally binding framework to stave off dangerous levels of global warming that scientists say threaten to bring rising seas and more droughts, heatwaves and floods.
Arguments over targets have been a key stumbling block in U.N. negotiations and at other forums, such as the G8.
Developing countries blame wealthy nations for most of mankind's greenhouse gas pollution to date and say the onus should be on them to make major reductions first. Some fear that committing to ambitious targets would choke their economic growth and prevent them catching up with richer states.
The European Union praised Brazil for its pledge on Friday to take its emissions back to 1990s levels by 2020 -- potentially a cut of some 20 percent from the 2.1 million tonnes of greenhouse gases it produced in 2005..
The commitment by Latin America's biggest economy could put pressure on other nations to adopt more aggressive targets.
"This is a potentially decisive step to achieve a global deal in Copenhagen in December and to succeed in the fight against climate change," said Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Union's executive arm, the European Commission.
The cuts, which assume annual economic growth of between 4 and 6 percent, would not hamper Brazil's economy, Environment Minister Carlos Minc said.
"Brazil will grow and develop. We will create more green jobs, more efficient jobs, a cleaner energy matrix, more efficient agriculture," he said.
Brazil, among the world's biggest carbon polluters mostly due to deforestation, has become a major player in climate negotiations after years of rejecting such talks and saying the onus was entirely on rich countries to cut emissions.
But APEC's stance is more significant because its 21 members account for some 60 percent of mankind's greenhouse gas pollution.
Yi Xianliang, counsellor at the department of treaty and law at the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who is negotiating in the climate talks, said the target of a 50 percent global cut in the original draft APEC statement was "very controversial."
This "might have disrupted negotiations," Yi told a news conference, adding the decision to remove the target was a collective decision.
APEC member South Korea gave the U.N. climate talks a small boost by opting for the toughest of three voluntary emission targets, choosing minus four percent from 2005 levels by 2020, a government source told Reuters in Singapore.
The United States and Japan agreed on Friday they would aim to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050 and back a global goal to halve emissions by mid-century.