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US will probably commit to emissions cut, UK minister says

The US is likely to join a global framework to cut emissions of greenhouse gases because the international mood is shifting with „overwhelming” evidence that global warming is largely man-made, UK Environment Secretary David Miliband said.

„I think it's a matter of when, not if, the United States becomes part of a global drive to reduce emissions,” Miliband said in an interview today with reporters in Potsdam, near Berlin, without specifying when that might happen. „It's not going to succeed without them.” The US hasn't signed up to the Kyoto Protocol, which commits 35 countries and the European Union to cut emissions by a combined 5% from 1990 through 2012. Environment ministers from the G-8 nations and five key developing countries gathered in Potsdam for talks today and tomorrow on climate change and biodiversity.

US President George W. Bush has said ratifying Kyoto would hamper competition with developing nations such as India and China that aren't bound by targets under Kyoto. US emissions are on a course to be about 30% above 1990 levels by 2012. Bush is pursuing „intensity targets” for cutting emissions per unit of economic output. Ministers from around the world will meet in Indonesia in December for more talks on a post-Kyoto agreement. Environmental groups such as Greenpeace want the US and other major economies to commit to cutting emissions after 2012, when Kyoto expires.

„From our point of view, emissions reduction is essential for the industrialized countries, but it's equally essential that every country plays its part,” Miliband said. „The debate all around the world is shifting, and it's obviously shifting in the US,” he said, citing local and state efforts to reduce emissions, as well as proposed legislation in Congress. „This 'after you, Claude' syndrome, needs to be broken,” Miliband said. „The 'after you, Claude' syndrome says please go through the door first, and the other person says no, no, you go through the door first.” While developed countries need to act first to cut emissions, developing nations also need to play a role, by, for example, pursuing voluntary emissions cuts, limiting emissions rises and setting energy intensity targets, he said.

The US is represented at the G8+5 talks by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. Talks today focused on protecting the diversity of world animal and plant species, and climate change will be discussed tomorrow. Leaders of the 13 countries will meet in the German town of Heiligendamm in June. The G-8 is an international forum for the governments of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the UK and the US The five major developing nations are Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa.

Environmental campaign groups including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth have said politicians aren't acting fast enough to cut emissions, and that the world risks catastrophic effects from climate change, including rising sea-levels, more frequent droughts and floods, and stronger storms. A large sailing boat bearing a Greenpeace banner saying „G8: Stop Talking - Act Now!” was floated on the lake in front of the castle at Potsdam where ministers were gathered yesterday. (Bloomberg)