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The Kyoto Protocol, the treaty guiding international action on climate change, expires in 2012. Negotiations on what will happen after this will begin in November at a meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

This editorial in Nature says that advances in climate science must be taken into account in discussions of 'post-2012'.

Improved knowledge of the movement of carbon between the biosphere, atmosphere, and the oceans, and advanced satellite technology, mean we are better place to make decision than in 1997, when the Kyoto Protocol was negotiated, it says.

At the core of post-2012 negotiations, says the editorial, should be a target for the maximum concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This would be more useful than targets for emission levels or temperature, it says.

The editorial suggests that a goal of capping the carbon dioxide concentration at 400 parts per million by 2030 might gather broad political and scientific support.

In the absence of US involvement, it adds, the responsibility for framing a global response to climate change once the Kyoto Protocol's term is over falls to the European Union and developing countries.

Link to full Nature editorial

Read more about climate change in SciDev.Net's change climate dossier.