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US Stands Fast Against Kyoto Protocol at India Climate Conference - 2002-10-24

U.S. officials attending a U.N. conference on climate change in New Delhi say the United States is unlikely to join the Kyoto protocol in the future. But, the European Union says it is strongly committed to the treaty that aims to cut so-called greenhouse-gas emissions.

Environmentalists see the Kyoto protocol as the most significant effort so far in cutting down greenhouse-gas emissions, which many scientists say cause climate changes around the world.

The Kyoto agreement was reached five years ago. It aims at cutting emissions by more than five percent in industrialized countries by 2012, when new and stiffer targets are expected to be set.

The United States withdrew from the treaty last year, saying it would be too costly for industries and would hurt economic growth in the country.

Many nations are trying to convince the U.S. to reverse its decision, but American officials attending the New Delhi conference says that will not happen. Senior U.S. climate change negotiator Harlan Watson says his country is unwilling to make a commitment it cannot meet on cutting emissions.

"No we will not sign in 2012. I would say any instrument that talks about hard targets and timetables on emission levels without recognition of the need for economic growth, I can not really pass on what might happen 10years from now," he said. "But I believe it would be very difficult for United States to enter into."

But Mr. Watson says the country is strongly committed to addressing the issue of climate change, and is making efforts to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

"Action is what really addresses climate change, not pieces of paper," he said. "I believe all parties here, whether they are taking the Kyoto route, or whether they are following their own path like the United States recognize that climate change is a significant problem that needs addressing and we are taking actions to do that."

But the European Union says it considers the implementation of the Kyoto protocol a top priority for the world.

Thomas Becker is the EU delegation leader at the New Delhi conference. He says the European Union has cut emissions by 3.5 percent, and is prepared to accept stiffer targets in the future, because the richer countries must bear the burden of reversing environmental damage.

Mr. Becker says the U.S. refusal to come on board is a setback in the battle to cut down emissions, but efforts will continue to ensure that the Kyoto treaty comes into force.

"I am not very encouraged on what the United States want and do not want. They have, so to say, they have left the family and it is of course their decision, only we have to pay the bill for them," he said. "I have to say to you that the European Union has decided that we will go ahead, we will go ahead with those countries which do engage in multilateral work, and do recognize that this is a threat to the world, that this is something we have to face. And we have to do something about it, and we in the European Union recognize that we are the ones who have mostly started to create this problem by our way of living, and our way of consuming, and our way of producing."

The Kyoto protocol can only come into force if it is ratified by countries that together account for more than half the developed world's carbon dioxide emissions at 1990 levels. Developing countries are urging industrialized nations to implement the treaty, saying their economies are being hurt by climate changes that are believed to be causing floods, and other environmental disasters.