November 27, 2005

US to battle allies over global warming

By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent

MONTREAL, Canada (Reuters) - Washington will battle with
its allies over how to slow climate change beyond 2012 at UN
talks in Canada this week that will also test developing
nations' willingness to do more to fight global warming.

Up to 10,000 delegates from 189 nations meet in Montreal
from November 28-December 9 for the first annual climate talks
since the UN's Kyoto Protocol on curbing heat-trapping gases,
mainly from human use of fossil fuels, entered into force in

Many Kyoto nations want Montreal to launch negotiations,
likely to last years, on setting new curbs once Kyoto's goals
run out in 2012. Kyoto is a bid to slow climate change that may
trigger more hurricanes, droughts and rising sea levels.

But the United States and Australia, which have rejected
Kyoto as a straitjacket threatening economic growth, do not
want to discuss binding commitments.

"I can't see the United States joining international
negotiations about what happens after 2012," said Paal
Prestrud, head of the Center for International Climate and
Environmental Research in Oslo.

"It's hard to imagine a continuation of the Kyoto Protocol
without the United States and Australia," he said.

Any deal excluding the United States and Australia could
hand them a competitive advantage because of costs of complying
with Kyoto, which seeks a shift from burning coal, oil and gas
to cleaner energy sources like wind and solar power.

Montreal will also be a test of how far developing nations
such as China and India are willing to curb emissions of
heat-trapping gases when wider use of energy -- like supplying
electricity for homes or industry -- is key to ending poverty.


Environmentalists say Kyoto backers should go ahead and
plan long-term targets to curb emissions, reasoning Washington
might sign up after President George W. Bush steps down in

"It's clear from the mounting evidence of climate change
that much deeper cuts in emissions will be needed from 2012,"
environmental group Greenpeace said. It wants a 2008 deadline
for negotiating a successor treaty for after Kyoto.

On one front-line of climate change, about 2,000 people on
the Cantaret Islands off Papua New Guinea have decided to move
to nearby Bougainville island after a losing battle with rising
sea levels that have washed away homes and poisoned fresh

And businesses and investors in a new European Union market
for trading emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse
gas, also urgently want to know what the international rules
will be after 2012.

The Montreal talks will involve senior officials with
environment ministers attending the last three days. Under
Kyoto, about 40 nations have to cut emissions of carbon dioxide
by 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12.

After pulling out of Kyoto in 2001, Bush has stressed
investments in new energy technologies like hydrogen or ways to
bury carbon dioxide below ground.

"Technology alone is not enough. This has become very clear
from the policy that the United States is following," EU
Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas of Greece said last

U.S. emissions were 13.3 percent above 1990 levels in 2003,
according to UN data. Yet some Kyoto backers -- including
Spain, Canada and Greece -- were even further above 1990

The conference is a parallel meeting of the UN's 189-nation
1992 climate convention which oversees Kyoto, in which
Washington and Canberra are full members, and of the 156-nation
Kyoto Protocol, where they are mere observers.

Among other tasks, Montreal will try to streamline a Kyoto
scheme for green projects in developing nations, like tapping
the energy from methane gas released by rubbish dumps in

The project, known as the clean development mechanism, has
been hit by bottlenecks. "There's a huge amount of interest,
but the people supposed to be supervising the process are
part-time," said Steve Drummond, managing director at carbon
dioxide brokers C02e.