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Vajpayee Urges Looser Emission Standards for Poor Countries - 2002-10-30


Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee says poor countries should not be set the same targets as rich nations in cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Mr. Vajpayee spoke to representatives from 185 countries attending the U.N. climate conference in New Delhi.

Mr. Vajpayee rejected suggestions that developing countries could do more to tackle global warming by cutting down so-called greenhouse gas emissions. "There have been suggestions recently that the process should commence to enhance commitments of developing countries on mitigating climate change beyond that included in the convention," he said. "This suggestion is misplaced for several reasons."

Mr. Vajpayee said greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries are a small fraction of those emitted by developed nations. He said per capita incomes are also very small in poor countries and their fragile economies cannot afford the cost of cutting emissions.

The U.N. conference is preparing the way for the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol, which was signed five years ago to halt global warming caused by greenhouse gases. Many scientists say these gases are raising the earth's temperature and leading to weather catastrophes around the world, such as droughts and floods.

The Kyoto Protocol set specific targets for industrialized nations to cut greenhouse gas emission levels by 2012 but excluded developing nations from this process.

The Indian prime minister's comments appeared to deepen a divide that is emerging over a final resolution that will be adopted at the end of the conference.

Environmentalists and several richer countries led by the European Union want large developing countries such as India, China and Brazil to consider future measures they could take to join the process of halting global warning.

The Environment Director General at the European Commission, Katherine Day, said it is urgent that all countries come together to try and reverse climate changes being witnessed around the world. "This is not something the European Union can do on its own, although we are willing to go ahead and show the way," said Ms. Day. "But this is a global problem and affects everybody, and everybody has to take responsibility in trying to resolve it."

Developing countries want the focus to turn on how countries should prepare and adapt for global warming, rather than specific steps that they should consider to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

These countries say poor people in their regions are the most vulnerable to droughts, floods and other effects of climate change. But they say their economies cannot absorb the costs of switching to clean, but expensive, technologies that can combat climate change.

Environmentalists fear the wrangling between the developing and developed countries will set back efforts to halt the process of global warming that began with the Kyoto Protocol. The United States and Australia have already refused to ratify the Kyoto accord, saying they cannot implement it because it will hurt their economies.

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