US cannot meet Kyoto emissions target

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America cannot meet its Kyoto treaty target for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases by domestic measures alone, a senior United States official admitted yesterday.

America cannot meet its Kyoto treaty target for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases by domestic measures alone, a senior United States official admitted yesterday.

The agreed target, which would mean cutting a staggering 30 per cent of the US's emissions of carbon dioxide and other industrial gases by 2010, is too big, said Frank Loy, the State Department's under-secretary for global affairs.

Instead, it will need to buy huge amounts of "emissions credits" from other countries, and no limit should be set on these, said Mr Loy, who is opposite number to John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, as chief US negotiator for the Kyoto follow-up conference to be held in the Hague in November.

Mr Loy's admission, at the US embassy in London, underlines the problems facing implementation of the 1997 Kyoto treaty, in which developed countries agreed to make big cuts in the gases that cause climate change.

The conference in The Hague is to try to finalise the treaty's provisions. But Mr Loy's insistence on there being no limit to the "theoretical" emission cuts that the US can buy from other states which may have exceeded their targets, puts it on a collision course with Britain and the rest of the European Union.

The EU says that no country should be able to buy more than 50 per cent of its target emission cuts from other states; the rest of it should consist of "real" cuts. Otherwise the US, the richest country in the world, will look as if it is merely buying its way out of its international obligations to fight global warming.

The US agreed at Kyoto to cut back its greenhouse gases to 7 per cent below their 1990 levels by 2010. But Mr Loy said that US economic growth in the Nineties means the emissions America will be producing by 2010 will have to be slashed by 30 per cent to meet the 1990 baseline target. "It's a very tough one," he said.

Although Mr Loy did not put a figure on the cuts, it is thought that they would have to exceed seven billion tons of CO 2 annually, and such a goal is widely regarded as impossible in practice - unless Californians stop driving their cars and go over to bicycles.

But Mr Loy's open admission of the impossibility of achieving the targets underscores the huge negotiating gap that will have to be bridged before the Kyoto treaty can take effect.

* The warming climate is eroding more than 50 billion tons of water a year from the Greenland ice sheet, adding to a 9in global rise in sea level over the last century and increasing the risk of coastal flooding around the world, a US study shows. A high-tech aerial survey by Nasa shows that more than 11 cubic miles of ice is disappearing from the ice sheet annually.

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