End-January deadline flexible: UN climate chief

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The UN climate chief said Wednesday that Jan. 31 is a "soft deadline" for countries to say whether and how to associate with the accord on how to fight climate change.

"I think you could describe it as a soft deadline," said Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), at his first press conference after the Copenhagen climate negotiations.

"There is nothing deadly about it," de Boer asserted in his Bonn office. "If you fail to meet it, you can still associate with the accord afterwards."

The UN Copenhagen negotiations, which concluded on Dec. 19 last year, asked both developed and developing countries to indicate their support and to set emission targets before Jan. 31 this year.

By Tuesday, only nine of UNFCCC's 193 members had replied formally, according to local media reports.

The UNFCCC chief used a culinary analogy by labeling the Copenhagen negotiations as "not a complete success (for a finished cake)." However, he said that the negotiations in the Danish capital "left countries with all the right ingredients to bake a new one (cake) in Mexico."

The UNFCCC is to conduct its next round of negotiations in Mexico this year.

"If countries follow up Copenhagen's outcomes calmly, with eyes firmly on the advantage of collective action, they have every chance of completing the job," de Boer added.

The Copenhagen negotiations, according to the climate chief, have not only brought the climate change issue to the governmental level but have also reached a global political consensus.

De Boer said that countries should now have the time to resume discussion of the climate change issue in the cooling-down period after Copenhagen, where the global debate reached a climax.

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