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U.N. climate change conference opens

BRUSSELS, Belgium – The EU’s chief environmental official urged the United States and Australia to do more to cut greenhouse gases, saying Monday, their cooperation was critical in the fight against global warming.

At the start of a five-day U.N. climate change conference, EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas criticized the two major holdouts to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol for their reluctance to join the 27-nation EU and other rich countries in fighting climate change.

Dimas said the U.S. should end its “negative attitude” toward international negotiations on a new climate change pact to reduce emissions, which could start in December.

“We expect from the United States to cooperate closer,” Dimas said. “It is absolutely necessary that they move because, otherwise other countries, especially the less developing countries, do not have any reason to move.”

Dimas also criticized Australia for not applying Kyoto, which requires 35 industrial nations to cut greenhouses gases. Australia is ranked as the world’s worst greenhouse gas emitter per capita, largely due to its reliance on coal-fired power stations.

Prime Minister John Howard has argued that Kyoto could cost Australian jobs because neither China nor India were held to carbon pollution reduction targets.

“From a human point of view this is absolutely critical,” the U.N. panel’s chairman, climatologist Rajendra Pachauri of India, said. “We need to understand what climate change means for us in our own lives and how its going to affect both natural and social systems.”

The meeting is expected to endorse a draft U.N. study that paints a bleak picture of increasing poverty, scarce drinking water, melting glaciers and polar ice caps, and a host of vanishing species by mid-century unless emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases are curbed.

The report, drafted by the world’s top climate change experts, will be presented at a Group of Eight leaders summit in June in Germany, which the EU will use to pressure President Bush to sign on to international talks to cut emissions.


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