December 1, 2005

Allies hope overcome U.S. climate talk refusal

By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent

MONTREAL (Reuters) - Major U.S. allies expressed confidence
on Thursday that they could persuade a reluctant Washington to
consider new ways to fight global warming at a 189-nation
environmental conference.

The United States, the biggest emitter of heat-trapping
gases, has ruled out joining any U.N.-led talks in coming years
on ways to rein in rising temperatures. Such talks are favored
by many at the U.N.'s November 28-December 9 climate

Host Canada and the European Union reckon they can allay
U.S. fears that any discussions would inevitably lead to
binding targets, opposed by Washington, which has pulled out of
the U.N.'s Kyoto Protocol on curbing global warming.

"This would be the start of discussions ... that do not
mean commitments to a future course," a senior Canadian
official said. "We think the United States could find a way to
join such discussions."

"We believe that it's possible to come up with a process, a
dialogue that has something of interest for everybody," echoed
Sarah Hendry, head of the British delegation which holds the
European Union's rotating presidency.

Washington bluntly told the conference on Monday that it
was not interested in discussing new commitments, saying it was
focusing on domestic measures to brake a rise in emissions and
investing heavily in clean technologies like hydrogen.

Still, Canada and the European Union hope the Montreal
talks will launch a twin track -- new talks among Kyoto nations
about what to do beyond 2012 and a wider set of discussions
also involving developing countries and the United States.

Kyoto, by contrast, requires about 40 developed nations to
cut emissions of heat-trapping gases by 5.2 percent below 1990
levels by 2008-2012. President George W. Bush pulled out in
2001, branding Kyoto an economic straitjacket.

Environmentalists said many nations were lowering
expectations about any big steps to combat global warming,
widely blamed on emissions from burning fossil fuels in power
plants, factories and cars. The 10 hottest years since records
began in the 1860s have been since 1990.

"If that's all that comes out of here then it's not
enough," said Steve Sawyer, climate policy director at
Greenpeace, of hopes for vague discussions on what many
environmentalists call the biggest long-term threat to life on
the planet.

U.N. reports say the buildup of greenhouse gases may cause
catastrophic climate shifts with more powerful storms, droughts
and floods. Icecaps could melt, raising sea levels and drowning
coastal cities and low-lying Pacific islands.

A paper submitted by a group of 77 developing nations and
China urged rich nations to consider new commitments for
cutting greenhouse gases beyond 2012 and aim to complete their
negotiations in 2008. It did not mention any commitments by
developing nations.

(Additional reporting by Jeffrey Jones)