Transatlantic tensions boil at climate talks

US leaders react angrily to EU exhortation to agree tough Kyoto protocol rules

French president Jacques Chirac today opened a week of climate change talks between world leaders by attacking the USA and calling on it to make greater efforts to achieve strong Kyoto protocol rules. Mr Chirac was addressing delegates on behalf of the EU at the start of the second week of the sixth conference of parties (COP6) to the UN climate change convention.

He warned all negotiators that attitudes would have to change if the week was to end successfully. "The compromise reached three years ago in Kyoto is still far from bearing fruit. Despite the commitments entered into, everyone has stuck to their positions and their own interests. Everyone is waiting for someone else to make the first move," Mr Chirac added.

But he reserved a special mention for the USA, whose ratification of the Kyoto deal is seen as crucial since it is the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide, the key global warming gas. "Each American emits three times more greenhouse gases than a Frenchman...the time has come for them to join with the other leading nations to work together...I call upon the USA, therefore, to cast aside their doubts and hesitations," he said.

The comments provoked angry responses from US delegates at the meeting. "Singling the US out doesn't help the COP6 spirit," senator Chuck Hagel told journalists later. "The president's speech was very unproductive," senator Larry Craig added. For the USA to ratify the protocol its senate must approve the deal, but so far the body has shown little sign of doing so.

America's chief negotiator during the ministerial segment of the talks, Frank Loy, said the growth in greenhouse gas emission rates was now much lower than that of the economy. "We're doing a lot and I don't think president Chirac knows that. It's not useful to determine who is the cleanest of us all."

Elsewhere in the Hague talks, today's meetings were devoted to general introductions and calls to action by various international and non-governmental bodies. The concrete policy issues left over from last week's technical-level talks were not touched on directly, though in an "informal" ministerial session at the end of the day the USA published figures to back its proposal on the use of forest sinks (ENDS Daily 15 November) (and see separate article, this issue).

Follow Up:
COP6 official website. See also ENDS Daily's COP6 links.

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