Global Warming Talks Collapse

By William Drozdiak
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, November 26, 2000

THE HAGUE, Nov. 25 -- A three-year effort to conclude an international treaty on global warming collapsed today when the United States and the European Union failed to resolve a dispute over how to curb the release of greenhouse gases that scientists say pose one of the gravest threats to the world's environment.

The climactic round of negotiations, which brought more than 170 nations here for the past two weeks, fell apart after some EU countries, notably Germany, rejected an eleventh-hour compromise. The countries claimed the compromise would allow the United States to escape too much of its responsibility as the world's biggest polluter.

"I am very disappointed," said Jan Pronk, the Dutch environment minister. "We have not lived up to the expectations of the outside world, even though we have invested a lot of time and energy in this process."

As conference president, Pronk had extended the deadline by 24 hours in hope of getting U.S. and European delegates to reach a deal.

The demise of the Hague conference leaves the international campaign to fight global warming in disarray at a time when scientists contend there is now convincing evidence that the buildup of heat-trapping chemicals in the atmosphere may cause temperatures to rise by 6 degrees to 12 degrees Fahrenheit this century. That increase is likely to provoke more violent storms, the melting of the polar ice caps and rising sea levels that could inundate small islands and many coastal areas.

Many supporters fear that a 1997 treaty calling for significant reductions in carbon dioxide emissions will be placed in limbo until negotiations can resume once a new U.S. administration takes office. And many delegates question the nature of the U.S. commitment to the treaty under either Al Gore or George W. Bush. The treaty stilll has not been ratified by the U.S. Senate.

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