U.S. taken to task over global warming treaty


MONTREAL -- Canada's Prime Minister Paul Martin took aim yesterday at the United States for its refusal to negotiate a new global warming treaty, telling a United Nations conference that the world's most powerful economy needs to resume participating in international talks to reduce greenhouse gases.

"Climate change is a global challenge that demands a global response. Yet there are nations that resist, voices that attempt to diminish the urgency or dismiss the science, or declare, either in word or indifference, that this is not our problem to solve. Well, let me tell you, it is our problem to solve," Martin said as he opened the U.N. Climate Change Conference here.

Martin's remarks triggered applause from a conference hall filled with delegates from dozens of countries, who are in Montreal to start talks on a new global warming treaty to take effect once the original commitments of the current pact, the Kyoto Protocol, expire in 2012.

Later, in a news conference, Martin singled out the United States by name, saying: "To the reticent nations, including the United States, I say this: There is such a thing as a global conscience."

The United States, the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, and Australia are the only two big nations to reject the Kyoto Protocol, which requires developed countries to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases to roughly 5 percent below 1990 levels.

Most climate scientists say much steeper reductions in greenhouse gases - emitted en masse when fossil fuels combust in cars and power plants - will be needed in order to truly curtail the greenhouse effect, which already has begun to increase temperatures, raise sea levels and affect weather patterns around the world.

President Bush, who has argued that the Kyoto Protocol's firm caps on greenhouse gases would damage the U.S. economy, has dispatched a negotiating team to the conference that has flatly opposed any talks on a new pact - a stance that is drawing open criticism from other nations.

In addition to Martin, Stavros Dimas, the European Union's top environmental official, criticized the U.S. during a meeting with reporters, saying, "We will continue to talk to our American partners and remind them of their commitments."

Dimas and other European officials contend that by refusing to discuss new global warming obligations in Montreal this week, the U.S. is reneging on a pledge Bush made at a G-8 summit in Scotland this year with leaders of the world's other major economies.

Undersecretary of State Paula J. Dobriansky, the highest-ranking U.S. official at the Montreal talks, forcefully defended Bush's stance yesterday. She said the administration believes it can accomplish more to reduce greenhouse gases outside of international treaties.

Miguel Bustillo writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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