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Honolulu Conference Takes Up Greenhouse Emissions Issue

  • Kayla Rosenfeld

Officials from the world's 16 largest greenhouse gas emitters gathered in Hawaii this week to discuss how to curb global climate change. Kayla Rosenfeld reports from Honolulu the goal was to advance the road map created last year at the U.N.-sponsored conference in Bali.

Many countries, including the European Union and Japan are pushing the United States to participate in significant greenhouse gas reductions. The United States is one of the few industrial nations that has not signed the Kyoto protocol to reduce emissions like carbon dioxide.

Brice LeLonde, France's Ambassador for Climate Change, says he's happy the U.S. position is changing. Not only did it host this Major Economies meeting on Energy Security and Climate Change in Honolulu, but last month, President Bush also signed the Energy Independence and Security Act. It contains strict emission standards and goals for increasing development of renewable fuels.

"Of course we want more, but it's a good start. We had a real good discussion . . . face-to-face. Why don't you do that, could you do it this way, we still have to do some work on this issue, etc," he said. "It was very important for us because we don't often have that kind of face to face discussion where we can say exactly what we believe, why we have a problem of trust, or why didn't do this. That's very important. That's why we want to go on and then we really hope we can deliver real decisions in the short future."

That future includes a mid-March clean energy technology workshop in Japan, and a gathering of leaders in France in April. But, Germany's minister for the environment, Matthias Machnig, says the group still has much work to do, and huge goals to achieve.

"There are some positions not shared by everyone, and I think one thing is very clear. We all have a responsibility here. Because the public wants action from us, the public wants answers, the public wants those things we agreed on are now implemented and that we go straight way for clear reduction strategies for the next years," said Machnig. "And from a German point of view, we need a clear international agreement, because we are running out of time."

Among the major issues to be decided at upcoming meetings of the group is how to come up with a common long-term goal for reducing greenhouse emissions.

More the 170 nations have ratified the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which commits them to reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by five percent, compared to 1990 levels.

The treaty is due to expire in 2012.

The delegates hope to finalize their comprehensive international agreement on climate change in Copenhagen in 2009.