Foul air hangs over climate talks

NUSA DUA, Bali - Negotiators struggled yesterday to overcome their differences at world climate talks in Bali, with fingers pointed at the US as the main source of the deadlock.

NUSA DUA, Bali - Negotiators struggled yesterday to overcome their differences at world climate talks in Bali, with fingers pointed at the US as the main source of the deadlock.

In an atmosphere of pessimism and sourness, some European countries mulled over the threat of retaliating against President George Bush's own initiative on tackling the greenhouse-gas peril, delegates said.

"I am very concerned about the pace of things," said Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UN's framework convention on climate change, which is staging the talks.

"At noon tomorrow [4am GMT], the time is up."

Environment ministers or their stand-ins from more than 180 countries have until today to agree to a framework for tackling global warming past 2012, when pledges under the Kyoto Protocol expire.

The Bali talks do not themselves seek to draw up a new climate pact but to set down the parameters for further negotiations toward such a deal.

One of the biggest problems, said De Boer, was the scope of the "ambition" for the future negotiations.

The European Union, supported by developing countries, green groups and small island states, wants a reference by industrialised countries that a cut of 25percent to 40percent in their emissions by 2020, compared to 1990 levels, will be a guideline for those talks.

It says these figures are essential for showing rich nations are serious about making concessions to fix a problem that they created and have the most resources to address.

The US is opposed and its position is shared by Japan, Canada and Russia, delegates say.

Without naming anyone, German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel told reporters "there are several elephants in the room", and said he had asked Chancellor Angela Merkel to make a high-level intervention to phone "one of the elephants". He also alluded to the possibility that European countries might boycott a meeting in Hawaii next month of a Bush initiative, gathering major carbon polluters.

"Without clear targets, there will be no major emitters meeting in January," said Gabriel.

De Boer earlier spelt out several interlinked issues blocking agreement.

Because of the linkage, "we are, in a way, in a kind of all-or-nothing situation, in that if we don't manage to get the work done in time in the future, then the whole house of cards basically falls to pieces", he said.

The head of WWF International, James Leape, accused "the United States and its minions" of striving to block the deal "in any way that they can". James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, fought back. - Sapa-AFP

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