Reports of record high greenhouse gas emissions and unprecedented carbon levels in the atmosphere added a sense of urgency to a two-week world climate negotiating session attended by 184 nations.

The June 6-17 discussions in Bonn, Germany, will prepare for the annual year-end decision-making U.N. conference, planned for Durban, South Africa. Durban could be the forum for a major showdown between wealthy countries and the developing world.

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012, binds nearly 40 countries to specific emission reduction targets. The expiring agreement provides the backdrop to one of the most divisive issues as countries seek accord to combat global warming.

Climate negotiators are seeking ways to make industrial countries continue reducing greenhouse gas emissions after their current commitment expires next year, the top U.N. climate official said Monday.

Countries generally have fallen into camps of rich and poor on the issue, with developing countries insisting that the Kyoto obligations be extended and industrial countries saying they want emerging economies to accept similar commitments.

But Christiana Figueres, head of the U.N. climate change secretariat, said negotiators appear to be moving outside of those boxes. "Countries are being much more constructive and creative," she told reporters at the start of the talks."We don't know yet where it's going to lead, but there is a very healthy atmosphere of really listening to each other.”

Also contributing to the apprehension was uncertainty over Japan's future policy, and whether it will adhere to its pledge to reduce emissions by 25 percent after the tsunami-triggered nuclear disaster in March.

Despite the expansion of renewable energy around the world, the Paris-based International Energy Agency issued a report that said energy-related carbon emissions last year topped 30 gigatons, 5 percent more than the previous record in 2008. With energy investments locked into coal- and oil-fueled infrastructure, that situation will change little over the next decade, it said.

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Source: Associated Press