US Torpedoes Hopes For G8 Climate Deal

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Agence France Presse

US Torpedoes Hopes For G8 Climate Deal

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The United States on Wednesday rejected a German bid for a binding pact on slashing greenhouse gas emissions at a summit of the world's richest nations.

Dashing faint hopes for a decisive accord, the chairman of the White House-run US Council on Environmental Quality, Jim Connaughton, said all major nations would have to be involved in any long-term accord.0606 01

"We've not sat down with China, India, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa," he said ahead of bilateral talks between US President George W. Bush and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the summit host.

"We have not sat down with Australia, South Korea and a number of the other major emitting countries on this issue and so until we've got everyone in the room and until we have consensus among all of them you won't see a collectively stated goal on that yet but it's coming."

Merkel has staked her presidency of the Group of Eight on persuading her counterparts to agree to limit the global temperature rise to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) and cap carbon emissions by 50 percent compared with 1990 levels by 2050.

Europe's top-selling newspaper Bild ran the headline "Will Merkel get a grip on the men?" as the chancellor prepared to welcome the other G8 leaders to the Baltic Sea resort.

The German plan has won qualified support from some G8 nations, but Merkel has faced stiff US opposition from the United States over her call for mandatory emissions limits.

She wants the G8 to show other nations the way towards negotiations on the Indonesian island of Bali in December to find a successor to the UN-backed Kyoto Protocol on capping emissions that expires in 2012.

"The accelerated climate change is a serious threat. If we don't stop it, it will lead to massive environmental problems and increased economic burdens," Merkel wrote in Wednesday's Der Tagesspiegel newspaper.

"Therefore we need decisive action from the international community.

"I hope there will be a signal from Heiligendamm that the countries represented there clearly recognise their collective responsibility."

Facing increasing international pressure ahead of the summit, Bush last week went on the offensive with his own climate plan for the United States and up to 14 other big emitters to agree by the end of next year "a long-term global goal" for reducing greenhouse gases.

Bush's key ally British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the US president's initiative signalled the US position on climate change was "on the move."

But he lent his support to Merkel Wednesday, saying anything less than a global deal on cuts in carbon emissions in Heiligendamm would be a failure.

"The important thing is that if we get an agreement to the idea of a global target of a substantial reduction in emissions, and it needs to be clear that it is in the order of 50 percent. You are not talking about 20 percent," Blair told The Guardian daily.

And new French President Nicolas Sarkozy called Bush's proposal "not sufficient," in an interview with The New York Times.

The major emerging powers who will be joining the G8 summit have also expressed reservations about binding targets.

"Our viewpoint, and the viewpoint of much of the developing world... is that while addressing (climate change), due care must be taken not to allow growth and development prospects in the developing world to be undermined or constrained," Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said before leaving for Germany.

In the face of strong resistance to a deal in Heiligendamm, the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) reported that Merkel preferred to let the summit fail than to agree a watered-down climate pact.

The newspaper cited Berlin sources as saying that Merkel would reject a "coalition of the willing" on selected countries cutting emissions and insist on winning an accord under a United Nations framework.

Merkel will host the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States.

Copyright © 2007 Agence France Presse

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