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Lima (AFP) - Developing nations must cut carbon emissions even if they feel it is unfair, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday, warning of climate "tragedy" if quarrelling derails a global pact.
"I know the discussions can be tense and decisions are difficult and I know how angry some people are about the predicament they've been put in by big nations that have benefitted from industrialization for a long period of time," Kerry said in Lima, where tense negotiations were under way for a world climate pact.
"But the fact is we simply don't have time to sit around, going back and forth about whose responsibility it is to act.
"It is everyone's responsibility because it is the net amount of carbon that matters, not each country's share."
UN negotiators remain deeply divided on details of a deal to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) through curbing emissions of Earth-warming greenhouse gases.
The pact must be finalized in Paris in December 2015 to take effect from 2020.
Yet nations disagree fundamentally on the principle of "differentiation" -- how to apportion responsibility for cuts.
Developing nations say the West should bear a bigger burden, having polluted their way to wealth. But rich countries point the finger at developing giants like China and India furiously burning coal to power their rapid growth.
"We have to remember that today more than half of global emissions, more than half, are coming from developing nations. So it is imperative that they act too," said Kerry.
"President Obama and I understand the way countries feel particularly about the major emitters. We get it.
"The United States and other industrial nations have contributed significantly to this problem... and we recognize the responsibility we have right now to lead the global response."
But even if the United States could eliminate domestic emissions, this would not be enough to offset carbon pollution in the rest of the world, the diplomat said. Nor would it be if China or India did so, on their own.
"It's just not enough for one country or a even few countries to reduce emissions when other countries continue to fill the atmosphere with carbon pollution as they see fit," said Kerry.
"If even one or two major economies failed to respond to this threat, it would counteract much of the good work the rest of the world does."
The Paris pact, he added, would not be "the silver bullet that eliminates this threat but I think everyone here can agree that we certainly won't eliminate it without an agreement," added Kerry.
If the negotiations fail, "future generations will judge our effort not just as a policy failure but as a massive collective moral failure of historic consequence.
"They will want to know how we together could have been so blind, so ideological, so dysfunctional and frankly so stubborn that we failed to act on knowledge that was confirmed by so many scientists."
Science says that on current emission trends the world is on target for warming of 4 C or more, bringing more floods, drought, sea-level rise, disease spread and conflicts over resources.
"We are still on a course leading to tragedy," said Kerry. "The window is closing quickly."