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US comes under pressure at climate talks
Updated: 2005-12-08 15:42

The European Union and host Canada piled pressure on the United States on Wednesday to join an international pact to curb greenhouse gas emissions and limit the predicted chaos from global warming.

But the United States defended its policy of investing billions of dollars in cleaner technology to reduce emissions, brushing aside calls for it to commit to long-term U.N. discussions on slowing climate change,.

"One size does not fit all," said Paula Dobriansky, the U.S. under secretary for global affairs, who leads the American delegation to the November28-December9 U.N. climate talks in Montreal.

Environment ministers from more than 90 countries met to try to break a deadlock over how to launch talks to entice the United States and big developing nations like India and China to join a system that cuts production of greenhouse gases.

"There is absolutely no excuse for any more delay in action," Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin told the meeting, urging the United States and other skeptical nations to "listen to the conscience of the world."

The EU also called for more action.

Adding a sense of urgency to the talks is extreme weather, including Hurricane Katrina, the world's costliest weather-related disaster, which scientists warn could be a portent of things to come.

At the heart of the Montreal meeting is how to cut emissions after 2012, when the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol climate change pact ends. Washington has rejected the pact, saying mandatory emissions cuts would harm its economy.


The U.S. stance has angered many countries and green groups that back Kyoto, who contend that while the pact was flawed because it excludes developing nations in the 2008-12 first phase, it is still be best mechanism in existence.

"We will continue to talk to our American partners and remind them of their commitments," European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas told reporters.

He said U.S. President George W. Bush agreed at a summit of eight leading industrial nations in July and at a U.N. summit in September to advance global discussions in Montreal on long-term cooperation to curb climate change.

Canada has proposed two-year talks looking at ways to involve all countries in tackling climate change. But Dobriansky dismissed the idea, saying Washington does not support anything that leads to formal targets on cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

"It is our belief that progress cannot be made through these formalized discussions," she told a news conference.

The United States is the source of a quarter of all greenhouse gases produced from burning fossil fuels.

Green groups are also angry by the lack of progress.

"Climate change is not about bureaucrats scurrying around. It's about people, about families, about children," said Sheila Watt-Cloutier, an Inuit indigenous leader who says a thaw in the Arctic ice is undermining hunting cultures.

About 160 members have ratified the Kyoto Protocol, which binds about 40 industrial nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12. Many countries, including Canada, are way above their targets at the moment.

Many officials at the conference say formalizing commitments to cut carbon dioxide emissions will mean a huge economic shift, particularly for rapidly growing developing nations, who say cleaning up could limit growth. Rich nations should be taking the lead, developing nations say.

Most scientists say a build-up of heat-trapping gases from fossil fuels burned in power plants, factories and cars is warming the planet and could herald catastrophic changes such as a rise in sea levels spurred by melting icecaps.

Environmentalists set up a fairground-style test of strength, asking delegates to smash a giant hammer onto a "Kyotometer" to show their commitment to fighting climate change. "I hit it and rang the bell three times out of three," said Chief Gary Harrison, an Arctic indigenous leader.

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