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Archive for Saturday, November 18, 2006

Climate conference agrees on next steps

November 18, 2006

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— The U.N. climate conference ended Friday with agreement on the next steps toward negotiating future cuts in global-warming gases, a slow-paced timetable reflecting hopes the United States, China and other outsiders will eventually join the controls regime.

Delegates from the 165 member nations of the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012, approved a schedule of talks unlikely to produce a deal on post-Kyoto emissions reductions before 2009.

In the face of mounting evidence of climate change, environmentalists called the timetable a modest step at best. Even some government ministers expressed disappointment.

There's a need "to inject greater urgency and momentum into the process of driving down global emissions," the environment ministers of Germany and Britain - Ingmar Gabriel and David Miliband - said in a joint statement.

The 1997 Kyoto pact obliges 35 industrial nations to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. The U.S. and Australia are the only major industrial countries to reject that accord.

President Bush contends it would damage the U.S. economy and should have imposed cutbacks on poorer countries too.

Under the key agreement here, future meetings will review the workings of the Kyoto Protocol by 2008 with an eye toward setting new quotas on carbon dioxide and other emissions after Kyoto expires.

The review - a process that would assess the latest science and the size of cutbacks - is expected to be the basis for subsequent negotiations.

China, India and others have long resisted efforts to begin early talks in which they and other poor but fast-developing nations - and growing energy consumers - might be pressured to accept mandatory cutbacks in greenhouse-gas emissions. The final decision assured them the immediate process would not seek to negotiate cutbacks by developing nations.

Third World countries will likely resist emissions reductions until they see acceptance of mandatory caps by the United States - a prospect some see as possible after Bush leaves office.

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