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Activists from 350.org, an environmental protection group, sit at a partially submerged table in Cancun on Friday as they pretend to represent countries fighting for survival in the battle against climate change. Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Canada will support any binding international agreements from the Cancun climate change conference. ((Jorge Silva/Reuters))

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Canada would support a binding international agreement to reduce greenhouse gases.

Harper spoke in Nova Scotia on Friday as delegates at a climate-change conference in Cancun, Mexico, scrambled to hammer out a number of deals in the meeting's final hours.

Harper, whose government is often criticized for its stance on greenhouse-gas emissions, said Canada would honour the pact if such an agreement is reached.

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Prime Minister Stephen Harper, pictured at an event in Nova Scotia on Friday, says he wants to see the world achieve a legally binding agreement to regulate and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. ((CBC))

"Canada's objectives at this conference are clear and that is that we want to see the world achieve a legally binding agreement to regulate and control and reduce greenhouse gas emissions for all major emitters of the planet, including Canada," he said. "Canada is willing to participate in that."

Harper also called for an effort to push countries not interested in reducing emissions back to the table.

"There are other countries that do not support that objective. … In some of those cases, and I'm talking about very big emitters, they don't even support the measurement of greenhouse gas emissions let alone the control of them.

"I just say to anybody who is reasonably minded, let's focus on efforts on pushing the guys who aren't wanting an agreement to get to the table and get an agreement."

Non-stop talks

Climate negotiators laboured nonstop through the night and into their final day Friday, bargaining intensely over draft accords and seeking small, but essential steps to stem global warming.

The United Nations talks wrap up Friday evening. They were intended as a followup to last year's Copenhagen summit, where countries tried to reach an agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

During the two-week Cancun meeting, negotiators have debated whether to create a fund of $100 billion US a year for developing countries threatened by altered weather patterns, and give them the technology to leapfrog old petroleum-based economic development in favour of clean energy.

A meeting of all 193 countries planned for Friday morning to report on the overnight talks was repeatedly delayed as delegates continued wrangling behind closed doors.

In a late-night session Thursday, negotiating groups spelled out the progress they had made settling some disputed wording and clauses. But they reported that many issues remained to be sorted out.

One issue, related to pledges by industrial and developing countries to rein in emissions of heat-trapping gases, appeared deadlocked.

China and U.S. at odds

China and the U.S. were bickering over rules for countries to report actions curbing greenhouse gases and submit them to international scrutiny.

Even the forestry program, which had been touted as one of the easiest potential deals at Cancun, met last-minute hurdles over how to make sure that the rights of indigenous communities are safeguarded.

Off the agenda was any proposal for industrial countries to ramp up the modest pledges they made at the Copenhagen meeting for reducing greenhouse gas emissions that are causing a measurable rise in the Earth's average temperature.

That summit failed to produce a hoped-for overarching climate pact and instead concluded with a three-page political document, the Copenhagen Accord.

The 27-nation European Union wants language specifying that emissions pledges over the last year fall short of what scientists say is necessary to keep the Earth from overheating to dangerous levels.

A key issue of contention was whether to make the post-Copenhagen national emissions pledges legally binding, and in what kind of document.

The answer to those questions would determine the fate of the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 document that set reductions targets for 37 wealthy countries and expires in 2012. The United States rejected Kyoto — the only industrialized country to do so — because it didn't require fast-growing economies such as China and India to limit their emissions.

With files from The Canadian Press