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Climate talks resume

Gas emissions
The latest bid to ratify a deal on greenhouse gas emissions moves to Morocco  

MARRAKESH, Morocco -- U.N. climate talks to limit global warming have resumed with a push to finalise the agreement reached earlier this year.

The two-week meeting in Marrakesh will seek to produce a legally binding document following a deal reached in Bonn, Germany, in July to save the Kyoto Protocol.

The 2,000 delegates from 160 countries were told by Dutch Environment Minister and outgoing conference chairman Jan Pronk told the opening plenary session: "In Marrakesh, the focus will be on completing the translation of the Bonn agreements into legal language."

"You can put the icing on the Bonn cake," Pronk said, urging the delegates to set aside political differences.

"Don't renegotiate a political agreement already reached, just work it out."

Environmental groups have urged U.S. President George W. Bush to reverse his decision to pull out of the treaty.

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Tony Juniper, director designate of Friends of the Earth, said: "The world has rightly shown its solidarity with the people of the United States after the appalling crimes of September 11.

"Tony Blair must now use his influence with President Bush to persuade him to show his solidarity with the rest of the world by tackling climate change, one of the biggest threats the planet faces."

The Marrakesh meeting, known as COP7 -- the seventh conference of the parties to a U.N. treaty signed in 1992 at the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro -- is expected to tie up loose ends of that deal.

In Bonn the 180 countries involved struck a political compromise to save the 1997 Kyoto Treaty by agreeing to cut greenhouse gas emissions by significant amounts in the next decade.

Basic agreement was reached after the European Union made significant concessions to Japan and Russia.

But the United States, the world's number one industrial power and its biggest polluter is "out," saying Kyoto is dead and unworkable.

In March the new administration in the U.S. pulled out of the Kyoto agreement.

Bush said the deal agreed by his predecessor Bill Clinton was "fatally flawed" and would harm the U.S. economy.

Supporters of the pact say a legal agreement in Marrakesh should allow countries to ratify Kyoto -- becoming legally bound by it -- by next year.

The 1997 treaty aims to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions by 5.2 percent of 1990 levels by 2012.

Moroccan Environment Minister Mohamed El Yazghi, who will chair the meeting of delegates, again from 180 countries, was confident the Marrakesh session would "translate into legal text" what was sealed at the eleventh-hour deal in Bonn in July.

"I'm very optimistic because a lot of groundwork was done in Bonn," he told Reuters.

The Bonn conference drafted a total of 15 decisions to be forwarded to the Marrakesh meeting for adoption.

These include to what extent countries can include carbon sinks such as forests in their total sum of carbon dioxide reduction measures and compliance mechanisms to ensure that countries actually fulfil their quota of emission reductions.

Officials have moved to prevent "slippage" of what was agreed in Bonn.

The head of the European Union delegation, Belgian Energy Minister Olivier Deleuze, said no door would be reopened in Morocco that was closed in Germany.

"We are not renegotiating the Kyoto Protocol," he told Reuters in Brussels.

Both Yazghi and Deleuze said that some countries might be hesitant to go ahead without the U.S. but no new moves from Washington should be expected.

A U.S. delegation would not bring any rival proposals to Marrakesh, the Moroccan minister said, calling it "a wise decision... in order not to disrupt the agenda of the conference."

He predicted, however, that delegations would "try and convince" the Americans to reverse their stand on the Kyoto Protocol.

In Bonn Japan, which had played a key role at the negotiations because of its concerns over potential penalties for countries which fail to meet the agreement's targets, had tried to persuade the U.S. to drop its opposition.

Yazghi deplored the fact that that the leading role the U.S. has adopted in the fight against terrorism in the wake of the September 11 attacks on its territory does not extend to the climate talks.

The United States' interest "clearly is not to be isolated," he said. "But they run the risk of appearing to defend only their own interests."

The Marrakesh talks would be a reminder that globalisation could have a positive side, Deleuze said.

"I am not convinced climate change is less important because of September 11, maybe it is even more important," he told Reuters.


• Kyoto Protocol
• U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change
• European Union
• Japan Government

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