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Tuesday, December 9, 1997 Published at 17:05 GMT


New plan at Kyoto summit
image: [ Al Gore - offered 'flexibility' but no targets ]
Al Gore - offered 'flexibility' but no targets

A new proposal has been put forward at the global warming summit in Japan.

The plan, from the conference chairman Raul Estrada, would mean an average cut in greenhouse gases of 5%.

But variations would be allowed among certain countries.

It is hoped the proposal will lead to a breakthrough in the deadlock between the United States and other countries.

The chairman's plan followed an offer of cuts in emissions of some gases.

News of the unexpected offer of 2% cuts in six greenhouse gases was announced to the media by Denmark's Environment Minister, Svend Auken.

Mr Auken's remarks produced an immediate response from the US delegation. A US official lashed out at the comments, saying the remarks were not an accurate account of the proposal, and that a two percent reduction was in fact "an understatement".

"We have been discussing more than that," the official told reporters.

It is the first real sign of a softening in the stance of the United States which has insisted cuts need to be cautious because of the effects they could have on the world economy.

A senior US official would not comment on the report but said Washington was involved in sensitive and secret talks with the European Union on a wide range of issues. The official said he hoped the comments were not a breach of ground rules covering the discussions.

On Monday, the United States vice-president, Al Gore - on a brief visit to Kyoto - said the American team was prepared to offer greater flexibility.

But he failed to shift from the established American position that emissions of the gases blamed for global warming be limited to 1990 levels - a target many countries say is inadequate.

Mr Gore said a comprehensive plan was needed with realistic targets and commitments from developing countries.

Many such countries insist it is the developed world that must make the sacrifices.

Disappointing progress

The United States has been repeatedly criticised for its refusal to contemplate a reduction in emissions below 1990 levels.

Mr Gore later told a news conference that flexibility would depend on issues like how many gases were being controlled and whether countries' provision for absorbing carbon-dioxide in new forests were included.

Mr Gore said: "Questions like these affect targets and timetables, and even if they are not affected it is a topic that always comes up in the negotiations. So I'm going to leave the specifics to them. I think that's the right way to do it, but the President and I have been specific with them about their instructions and in due time you will see exactly what it means.

BBC Kyoto correspondent Juliet Hindell reports on the differing targets for each country
Danish Environment Minister Svend Auken says the US proposal "fools the world"
Al Gore addresses conference delegates
Greenpeace's Matthew Spencer urges the US to make 'real reductions'

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