US says it will boycott Oslo climate summit


A summit planned for Oslo later this month to agree a common approach towards tackling global warming was called off last night after the US told European negotiators it would not attend it.

Norway had offered to host the summit after the climate change conference in The Hague broke up last month without agreement.

As EU environment ministers met in Brussels to discuss the issue yesterday, a French government spokeswoman announced that, although the EU wanted to go ahead with the summit, Washington had pulled out. "They have just decided that they did not agree to meet in Oslo," she said.

There are serious differences between the EU and a US-led "umbrella group" that also includes Canada and Japan on how to implement the emissions reductions that developed countries agreed in Kyoto, Japan in 1997.

The Kyoto pact commits developed countries to cut the pollution, especially emissions of carbon dioxide, that scientists blame for raising global temperatures. The EU is resisting US demands to be allowed to count the carbon stored in its forests and farmlands against its Kyoto emissions reduction target and to buy "emissions credits" from other countries.

Both sides have been eager to find agreement before Mr George W. Bush, who is regarded as unsympathetic to environmental concerns, becomes president on January 20th. But EU ministers acknowledged last night that the cancellation of the Oslo summit meant that it was now unlikely that a deal would be reached before the next climate conference in Bonn next May.

The German Environment Minister, Mr Jurgen Trittin, promised that negotiations would continue during the coming months and said the EU would make every effort to find an agreement.

Mr Trittin complained that US negotiators had retreated to a "fundamentalist" position and withdrawn offers of compromise they made at The Hague.

Climate experts warn that, unless developing countries cut the pollution that leads to global warming, the planet could face an unprecedented period of flooding and drought and entire islands could disappear from the map.