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U.S. Accused Of Stalling Global Warming Talks Japan Also Cited After Failure To Reach Timetable To Reduce Greenhouse Gases

Fri., Aug. 8, 1997

European ministers joined environmentalists in accusing the United States and Japan of blocking efforts to curb global warming after a round of U.N. talks ended Thursday without agreement.

Officials from about 150 nations attending the weeklong conference were unable to come up with a timetable for industrial countries to reduce emissions of so-called greenhouse gases after 2000.

More talks are scheduled for October.

A conference in December in Kyoto, Japan, is supposed to adopt binding emission limits, but the United States - which emits more greenhouse gases than any country - and Japan haven’t committed themselves to targets. Australia is another holdout.

“In the absence of those, it’s difficult to generate momentum,” said Michael Zammit Cutajar, head of the United Nations’ climate change unit. “I’m concerned about the lack of progress.”

The issue of global warming has become a sore point between Washington and the European Union, which has called for cutting carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases 7.5 percent below 1990 levels by 2005.

In Washington, White House spokesman Mike McCurry said President Clinton wanted more realistic goals. He said the criticism of the U.S. position was coming from “those that have proposed specific reductions that the United States government believes are unrealistic.”

A U.N. study has concluded that by trapping the Earth’s heat in the atmosphere, greenhouse emissions could raise temperatures enough by 2100 to cause droughts, wipe out many species and flood islands and coasts with water from melting polar caps.

Lobbyists for major U.S. multinationals watching the Bonn conference said the scientific evidence was unclear and that the treaty would kill American jobs and slow growth.

“There is no need for a rush to judgment,” said Gail McDonald, head of the Global Climate Coalition lobby.

In an apparent rebuke to such groups, German Environment Minister Angela Merkel said “intensive lobbying that has repeatedly questioned the scientific basis of global warming” had hampered the talks.

The Worldwide Fund for Nature called Japan another “major block” to an accord.

The U.N. talks are aimed at toughening a global-warming treaty produced at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro by making reductions in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions mandatory rather than voluntary.

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