Published on Saturday, November 25, 2000 by Reuters
UN Climate Talks Fail
Activists: 'You've Sunk The World'
by Margaret Orgill
THE HAGUE - A bitter wrangle between the European
Union and the United States over how to curb greenhouse gas
emissions brought a U.N. climate conference to an ignominious end
``We have not reached agreement,'' conference chairman Jan Pronk told the final session of the talks in The Hague aimed at clinching the world's first agreement on concrete steps to curb the gases blamed for global warming and climate change.
``I am very disappointed. We have not lived up to the expectations of the outside world,'' said Pronk, who is also Dutch Environment Minister.
Pronk did not give detailed reasons for the breakdown. But delegates said a compromise deal hatched by EU member Britain and Washington had been rejected by the rest of the 15-nation EU, of which France currently holds the presidency.
British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott earlier stormed out of the talks saying major players had been unable to make the compromises required to clinch a deal by a 1600 GMT deadline on practical steps to stop climate change.
``There isn't a deal. That's unfortunate,'' he told reporters as he strode out. ``We came so close. We couldn't get an agreement. I'm gutted (devastated).''
Environmentalists said failure meant victory for polluters and a disaster for efforts to clean up the planet's atmosphere and protect poorer nations from devastating storms and floods.
The G77 group of developing countries said the failure condemned them to more environmental turmoil.
``We will continue to be the victims of the adverse impacts of climate change,'' said G77 spokesman Sani Daura of Nigeria. He blamed the breakdown on what he called selfishness and lack of political will among rich nations.
``You've sunk the world,'' shouted furious protesters gathering outside the conference after Prescott's departure.
``The world will pay the price in tears,'' said the Friends of the Earth group. ``We will not forgive or forget those who wrecked the talks and put our planet further in danger.''
The conference had tried to agree steps to implement an accord reached in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997 calling for a five percent average cut in developed nations' 1990 levels of emissions by 2010.
Scientists say gases like carbon dioxide threaten potentially disastrous effects on weather, sea levels and the spread of diseases like malaria and dengue fever.
The dispute between the U.S. and the EU centered on a U.S. plan to allow developed nations to count carbon dioxide soaked up by forests, so-called carbon sinks, against emissions reduction targets set in Kyoto in 1997.
U.S. Plan ``Fraudulent''
Washington, backed by a so-called umbrella group of Australia, Canada and Japan, says it cannot reach its target without such methods. Opponents say the plan is fraudulent because it would mean only minimal cuts by the world's biggest polluter, the United States.
Poor nations say the U.S. position violated the ``polluter pays'' principle, and argue that climate change is the product of a century of U.S. and European industrialization fuelled by oil and coal.
However many business leaders and U.S. oil companies fear the costs of stopping the earth from heating up could have equally damaging effects on economic growth and jobs.
``This meeting will be remembered as the moment when governments abandoned the promise of global cooperation to protect Planet Earth,'' said Greenpeace.
``It's a tragedy that they didn't give it one more push,'' said Alden Meyer of the U.S. Union of Concerned Scientists.
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