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EU, US play blame game on climate talks

The EU threatens to boycott talks among top greenhouse gas emitting nations, accusing US of blocking goals for fighting climate change at UN talks in Bali.

world Updated: Dec 13, 2007 23:55 IST

The European Union threatened on Thursday to boycott US talks among top greenhouse gas emitting nations, accusing Washington of blocking goals for fighting climate change at UN talks in Bali.

"If we would have a failure in Bali it would be meaningless to have a major economies' meeting" in the United States, Humberto Rosa, Portugal's Secretary of State for Environment, said on the penultimate day of the two-week talks.

"We're not blackmailing," he said, ratcheting up a war of words with Washington at the 190-nation talks. "If no Bali, no MEM" (major emitters' meeting).

Portugal holds the rotating EU presidency and Rosa is the EU's top negotiator in Bali.

"We don't feel that comments like that are very constructive when we are working so hard to find common ground on a way forward," said Kristin Hellmer, a White House spokeswoman in Bali.

The Dec. 3-14 Bali talks are split over the guidelines for starting two years of formal negotiations on a deal to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, a UN pact capping greenhouse gas emissions of all industrial nations except the United States until 2012.

Washington, long at odds with many of its Western allies on climate policies, has called a meeting of 17 of the world's top emitters, including China, Russia and India, in Hawaii late next month to discuss long-term cuts.

President George W. Bush intends the Honolulu meeting to be part of a series of talks to feed into the UN process. Washington hosted a similar meeting in September, which attracted few top officials and achieved little.

The EU wants Bali's final text to agree a non-binding goal of cuts in emissions of 25 to 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 for industrial economies as a "roadmap" for the talks.

The United States, Japan, Canada and Australia are opposed, saying any figures would prejudge the outcome.

"Those who are suggesting that you can magically find agreement on a metric when you are just starting negotiations, that in itself is a blocking element," said James Connaughton, Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.