Enviroment: Prescott's global mission

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The Independent Online
The Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, tomorrow begins his second round the world voyage inside a month, searching for a breakthrough in the deadlocked global warming negotiations.

He will fly to India, Japan, New Zealand and Australia talking to prime ministers, their deputies and environment ministers, before the 10-day climate change summit in Kyoto, Japan, which begins in under a fortnight.

Yesterday, Mr Prescott told journalists that countries were still deeply divided on how far they should cut their rising emissions of the gases which cause climate change, chiefly carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels. But some issues over which there could be agreement were beginning to emerge.

The European Union was still holding out for all developed countries to commit to cutting their emissions by 15 per cent by 2010, said Mr Prescott, Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions. But the United States wants only to stabilise its climate pollution at the 1990 level by 2010.

The developed, industrialised states are also divided over what the developing nations should commit themselves to. Poor countries, such as India and China, are hostile to demands that they should take action when the rich, Western nations which have produced the great bulk of greenhouse gases to date, seem reluctant to act.

Michael Meacher, environment minister, reiterated Labour's manifesto pledge that Britain would cut its carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent by 2010. It would mean "a more discriminatory use of cars"", he said.