Fri, Feb 01, 2008 - Page 7 News List

Global climate conference expected to achieve nothing


Delegates met behind closed doors for a two-day global climate change conference in Hawaii, but were not expected to make major progress on setting limits for greenhouse gases.

Yvo de Boer, UN climate chief, said participants -- which include the US and China -- would likely use the opportunity to take stock of last month's talks in Bali, where nations agreed to adopt a blueprint for reducing greenhouse emissions by next year.

Germany, Japan and the UN were also among those with delegates in the meeting at the East-West Center which was to end yesterday.

Delegates, including top environmental officials reporting directly to presidents and prime ministers, aren't expected to make much progress outlining mandatory limits on the gases.

That's in part because the gathering that began on Wednesday is only scheduled to last two days.

It's also because the host of the Hawaii meeting, the US, has objected to mandatory cuts proposed by the EU for industrialized nations. Washington has said the reductions would slice too deep, too fast.

Even so, delegates said they expect to use their time in the islands to discuss in greater detail some of the ways countries -- both industrialized and developing -- can reduce their emissions.

Among the issues being discussed is how developing nations may acquire the technology to burn coal more efficiently. Or capture and store carbon emissions in huge underground containers. Delegates were also expected to discuss how to help developing countries prevent deforestation.

Jim Connaughton, the chief US delegate and White House environmental chief, said he hoped participants would reach an understanding on how industries, or different sectors, might reduce their emissions. This would complement national efforts, he said.

"Don't know yet. We have to now begin to outline these outcomes, but there's a lot of enthusiasm here for the discussion," Connaughton told reporters after the first day of talks.

Down the hill from the meeting on Wednesday, environmental activists drew a line along seven city blocks showing where ocean levels would likely rise to in the next 50 to 100 years if global temperatures continue to climb.

Alexa Hettwer, 16, said her neighborhood and her school were among the areas expected to be flooded.

"This really brings it home," she said of the chalking exercise. "I didn't realize everything I knew would be underwater."

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