Published on Thursday, November 23, 2000 by Agence France Press
Failure Looms Over Deadlocked Global Warming Talks
THE HAGUE - Negotiators on Thursday fought back against a spectre of failure hovering over the UN climate talks here, extending the parlay by a day to try to clear a thicket of disputes entangling the Kyoto Protocol on global warming.

Efforts to breathe life into the ambitious treaty had been scheduled to wrap up on Friday after a three-year marathon, but the deadline was pushed back by a day after late-night haggling failed to resolve the most bitterly-fought issues.

"We have more or less reached the limit within the present setting," said Dutch Environment Minister Jan Pronk, as he pleaded with delegates not to make contentious statements and to "share the pain" of making concessions.

"There has been progress, but not enough."

Angry environmentalists from Greenpeace sounded a giant "alarm" to delegates -- powerful sirens, mounted on the back of a truck, that screamed out to the International Congress Centre here.

"Don't let us d(r)own," demanded a banner, referring to a feared rise in ocean levels from atmospheric warming.

Seeking to clear at least one stumbling block, the US, Canada and Japan proposed setting up a billion-dollar fund by industrialised countries to help poorer nations combat global warming.

Developing nations have been fiercely critical of rich countries, accusing them of building their prosperity on fossil fuels but being reluctant to pay the bill for the environmental consequences.

Money for the fund would be allocated until 2012, the end of Kyoto's commitment period.

But the US-led proposal was brushed aside by the G77 and China, the 134-member bloc of developing countries, and it ran smack into hostility from European Union nations, who offered a rival funding proposal.

German Environment Minister Juergen Trittin reacted acidly to the US idea, noting that there was a significant risk that Washington would not ratify Kyoto anyway.

"They're promising money that other countries would have to pay," he told AFP.

The EU was also opposed to the scheme as it would earmark money for forestry projects, which may -- or may not, according to the viewpoint -- help to soak up greenhouse gases.

Scientific evidence about the real value of "sinks" is unclear, and so it is better not to conclude that they have a big gas-absorbing benefit, says Brussels.

Washington, however, says forests are a boon in the fight against greenhouse gases. It wants to be able to write off swathes of managed forests against its national target of gas emissions.

The Kyoto Protocol was signed in 1997, setting down targets and principles for achieving an overall 5.2-percent cut in emissions of fossil fuel gases that scientists say are slowly causing the Earth's atmosphere to warm, with potentially catastrophic impact.

It was left to subsequent negotiations to hammer out the ways and mechanisms by which these goals would be achieved.

But the process was maimed from the start by a quasi-ideological battle between the EU and US and an unwieldy negotiating framework, which required consultations among more than 180 UN members, many defending entrenched national interests.

Tensions rose on Wednesday after several groups of environment activists staged rowdy demonstrations within the congress centre and one of them flung a cream pie in the face of Frank Loy, the US delegation chief.

Outside the venue, police arrested several dozen protestors on Wednesday who were planning to march on embassies of countries deemed to be sabotaging the treaty.

Copyright 2000 AFP