• Reuters

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A U.N. deal due this year to fight global warming is set to avoid tough penalties for nations that fail to keep their promises, relying instead on persuasion and peer pressure, delegates at climate talks said Thursday.

The approach is a shift from the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which originally obliged about 40 developed nations to cut emissions and called for punishments for noncompliance. But those were never enforced — Canada and Japan, for instance, simply dropped out.

Officials from almost 200 nations are meeting at the U.N. conference in Geneva, from Feb. 8 to Friday, to work on a deal due at a summit in Paris in December to curb global warming.

“We are moving towards a system of institutionalized peer pressure,” said Elliot Diringer, executive vice president of the U.S. Center for Climate and Energy Solutions think tank. “It’s an approach that is not trying to impose penalties.”

Some activists at the conference said governments needed to be held to account, but many acknowledged that a less-confrontational approach is more likely to succeed.

A draft text of about 100 pages includes many options for compliance, including that it should be “nonconfrontational and nonjudicial” in following up on plans to limit greenhouse gas emissions linked to heat waves, floods and rising sea levels.

Bolivia’s left-wing government this week added the idea of setting up what it calls the International Climate Justice Tribunal to judge violators. That idea has been deemed unacceptable by most participants.

Mary Ann Lucille Sering, secretary of the Philippines Climate Change Commission, said “moral persuasion” is vague but better than threats. “Every time you say ‘if you don’t do this I will sue you,’ then I won’t do it,” she said.

Still, Christiana Figueres, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, said developing countries need assurances that the rich states will keep their promises for action, including rising financial aid.

But she noted the Paris deal will be built from nations’ voluntary contributions to act.

French climate ambassador Laurence Tubiana said the Paris deal has to be built around a “rational expectation” of what is possible.

But then there is a risk that some nations may simply offer to do too little to cut emissions.

“No one likes the idea of a total Wild West regime, where there (are) no expectations, no rules, no standards,” said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

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