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Europeans Raise Ante at Bali Climate Talks

Former vice president Al Gore told delegates to the climate change conference in Bali, Indonesia, not to abandon the process because of U.S. resistance now, urging them to
Former vice president Al Gore told delegates to the climate change conference in Bali, Indonesia, not to abandon the process because of U.S. resistance now, urging them to "negotiate around this enormous obstacle, this elephant in the room." In two years, he said, "the United States is going to be somewhere where it is not now." (By Dita Alangkara -- Associated Press)

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By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 14, 2007

NUSA DUA, Indonesia, Dec. 14 -- European leaders, angered by the growing impasse here over the U.S. refusal to accept any specific targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, threatened Thursday to boycott the parallel climate negotiations that President Bush launched with great fanfare in September.

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The deadlock underscored the sharp divide at this week's Bali climate change conference between the United States, supported by Canada and Japan, and most of the rest of the industrialized world, but efforts continued overnight to come up with a consensus "road map" toward achieving a new global warming treaty by 2009.

The Bali meeting was designed to be the first step in that two-year process, but throughout the week Bush administration officials have steadily resisted a U.N. proposal calling on industrialized countries to accept an initial goal of reducing their emissions by 25 to 40 percent by 2020. In retaliation, several European officials said they might not attend the next session of the White House-sponsored Major Economies Meeting on global warming, which is set to resume next month in Honolulu.

Leaders of the developing world, meanwhile, including the burgeoning economies of China, India and Brazil, said they would continue to resist pollution-reducing commitments of their own as long as the United States balks at setting targets for itself.

In an interview Thursday, Germany's environment minister, Sigmar Gabriel, said it would not make sense for Bush to continue the separate talks he initiated unless negotiators make progress here in defining the range of emissions cuts they need to consider.

"If we will not find a solution here in Bali, I cannot see what we should negotiate in the major economies meetings," Gabriel said. "If you want to organize a road map, you should know where is the destination."

In a sign of how badly relations have deteriorated between the United States and other nations over the issue, delegates to the U.N.-sponsored talks in Bali burst into applause Thursday night when former vice president Al Gore blamed the Bush administration for jeopardizing the negotiations and alluded to the end of Bush's term in office in just over a year.

In a 48-minute speech, Gore urged the delegates to "go far, quickly" in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, saying they should forge ahead with a consensus statement and leave "a large open space in your document" to allow a future U.S. president to work more aggressively to curb global warming.

"My country's been responsible for obstructing the process here in Bali, we know that," he said to a crowd that overflowed the hall, forcing some people to sit on the floor. "Over the next two years, the United States is going to be somewhere where it is not now. You must anticipate that."

Gore pushed delegates not to abandon the process altogether, urging them, instead, to "negotiate around this enormous obstacle, this elephant in the room."

It was not immediately clear whether the speech by Gore, who on Monday collected the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo for his global warming activism, would have an impact on the Bali talks, which are deadlocked over the question of how much industrialized and developing nations must do respectively to reduce emissions that contribute to Earth's warming trend.

Bush administration officials said they remain committed to producing a document that would allow industrialized and developing nations to explore a range of options for curbing climate change.


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