Friday, December 09, 2005

U.N. climate talks near Kyoto renewal roadmap

U.N. climate talks near Kyoto renewal roadmap

Thursday, December 08, 2005 7:19 p.m. ET

By Mary Milliken and David Fogarty

MONTREAL (Reuters) - Industrialized nations neared accord on a vague road map to extend the Kyoto Protocol at U.N. climate talks on Thursday but Washington showed no sign of budging from plans to pursue its own strategy on global warming.

Negotiators at the November 28-December 9 talks also agreed to speed investments in clean-energy projects in the Third World and set rules to ensure compliance with Kyoto, meant as a first step to prevent catastrophic climate changes from rising temperatures.

Delegates said ministers from more than 90 nations were close to agreeing on a negotiating plan -- without a firm timetable -- to extend Kyoto beyond 2012. The pact now obliges about 40 rich nations to cut emissions from burning fossil fuels.

"Under the (Kyoto) Protocol, the European Union and the G-77 have agreed on procedures to negotiate developed countries' undertakings in post-2012," French Environment Minister Nelly Olin said. The Group of 77 represents developing countries.

"It will be formally agreed tomorrow," Australian Environment Minister Ian Campbell told Reuters.

The United States, the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, and Australia attend meetings of the 157-member Kyoto pact only as observers. They pulled out, saying it would be too costly for their economies.

Kyoto is a tiny first step in a drive to brake a warming most scientists say will lead to wrenching changes such as more powerful storms, desertification, extinction of species and rising sea levels.

A draft text of the Kyoto plan seen by Reuters omitted any timetable for negotiations. Environmentalists and businesses have called for an end to talks by 2008 to give them time to plan investments in clean energy like solar or wind power.


The text said rich nations "shall aim" to agree "as early as possible and in time to ensure that there is no gap between the first and second commitment periods." Kyoto's first period demands emissions cuts of 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12.

Other delegates said the Kyoto parties would hold off from formally agreeing to the text in hopes other nations -- including the United States -- would agree to a parallel set of two-year talks on new ways to fight climate change.

"Virtually all countries, including China and India, are prepared to start these wider discussions," said Elliot Diringer, a director of the Pew Center, a Washington think tank. He said the United States was the main opponent.

U.S. President George W. Bush has denounced Kyoto as an economic straitjacket and is promoting big investments in new technologies like hydrogen and a plan to cooperate with China, India, Japan, Australia and South Korea.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, whose administration negotiated Kyoto in 1997 but never submitted it to a skeptical Senate for ratification, was scheduled to visit Montreal on Friday to address environmentalists.

Canada circulated a new text suggesting two years of U.N.-led discussions among all countries including the United States about new ways to fight global warming.

Earlier, negotiators agreed to streamline a plan that might channel $100 billion to projects such as hydropower in Honduras or wind energy in China to help cut the use of fossil fuels blamed for warming the planet.

Under the program, rich nations can invest in clean energy projects, such as generating electricity by burning the waste from sugar cane in Brazil, and claim credits back home for reducing world emissions of greenhouse gases.

Under the rules approved to ensure Kyoto compliance, any country that overshoots its targets will have to make up the shortfall, and an extra 30 percent penalty, in the next period.

A group of protesters sang revised versions of hits by former Beatle and peace activist John Lennon on the 25th anniversary of his murder in New York to urge wider action.

"We all live in a carbon-intensive world," they chanted to the tune of the Beatles hit "Yellow Submarine."

Copyright � 2005 Reuters Limited.