NEGOTIATIONS from 178 nations announce breakthrough in talks on global warming

Monday, July 23rd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BONN, Germany (AP) _ Negotiators from 178 nations rescued the 1997 Kyoto Protocol after 48 hours of marathon talks ending Monday, leaving the United States isolated as the rest of the world embraced the first binding treaty on combating global warming.

Despite appeals from his closest allies at a summit in Italy this weekend, President Bush refused to reconsider his rejection of the pact, which he deems harmful to the U.S. economy.

European envoys said the treaty would be stronger with U.S. participation, but that Washington would be welcome to join at any time.

``Almost every single country stayed in the protocol,'' said Olivier Deleuze, the chief European Union negotiator. ``There was one that said the Kyoto Protocol was flawed. Do you see the Kyoto Protocol flawed?''

The U.S. delegation, which participated in the talks, declined to comment on the deal.

The breakthrough came after nations reached a compromise on a single outstanding issue _ how to enforce legally binding sanctions against violators of the treaty. Japan was the key holdout.

Envoys admitted the deal fell short of tight rules they initially sought.

``I prefer an imperfect agreement that is living to an imperfect agreement that doesn't exist,'' Deleuze said.

Hundreds of delegates waiting in the convention hall lobby hugged each other with glee when the news came the agreement was clinched.

The deal clears the way for nations to continue the process of ratifying the protocol, which delegates hope to achieve in 2002, the 10th anniversary of the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The treaty must be ratified by 55 nations responsible for 55 percent of global green gas emissions to take force. Some 30 nations have ratified the pact to date.

Threatened with the second breakdown of negotiations in eight months, conference chairman Jan Pronk urged the yawning delegates late Sunday to redouble their efforts and to contact their capitals for guidance.

He appealed to them not to offer new amendments, which would lead to sure collapse.

``This is a good text. It is a balanced text,'' Pronk said.

Most delegations agreed Sunday night to accept without any changes Pronk's compromise proposal on rules governing the protocol. But Japan held fast to its refusal to accept the accord's enforcement clause.

Pronk said holdout countries, including developing countries seeking funding guarantees, carried enough weight to block ratification of the accord, which aims to curb the emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

The deadlock forced the high-level delegates to continue a long series of consultations as minister after minister missed flights home from the conference, originally scheduled to end Sunday night.

The climate talks were resumed in Bonn, Germany, after failing once before when a conference last November in The Hague, Netherlands, collapsed in a last-minute dispute between the United States and the Europeans.

That convention was held while ballots were still being counted in the U.S. election that brought Bush to office. He renounced the Kyoto pact three months later.

In a major concession by the EU, the accord allows countries to offset their obligations to reduce industrial pollution by counting the proper management of forests and farmlands that absorb carbon dioxide, known as carbon ``sinks.''

Environmental groups said the heavy allowance for sinks effectively reduced the commitment in the Kyoto accord to cut emissions by 5.2 percent from their 1990 levels. In fact, the reduction would be closer to 1.8 percent, said the World Wildlife Fund for Nature.