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Monday, November 9, 1998 Published at 21:44 GMT

Confident Prescott heads for Argentina

John Prescott: Confident of a deal on emissions

John Prescott: "Nobody doubts the science anymore"
UK ministers are heading to Argentina intent on ending the squabbling that is holding up a deal on global warming.

Climate experts and environmental officials from 180 countries have gathered in the Buenos Aires to agree a plan for implementing the 1997 Kyoto protocol, signed in Japan last December.

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If enforced, the protocol would legally bind nations to a programme of cuts in their emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases thought to contribute to global warming.

But many US lawmakers are refusing to ratify the protocol for fear that it would cost thousands of jobs.

However, the UK's Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott believes the Americans can be persuaded to honour their Kyoto pledge.

"It was said [at Kyoto] that the Americans would walk out and wouldn't accept it, but they did accept it - and accepted a very high target for a reduction in greenhouse gases," said Mr Prescott.

"This meeting in Buenos Aires has to come to agreement again. It can't be as ambitious as Kyoto, but it is an important stage in getting all the agreements for all the trading principles."

Global warming
Mr Prescott has a tough job ahead of him. Powerful interests in the US are fighting the protocol on Capitol Hill. Leading oil companies and others have come together in the Global Climate Coalition. Its chairman William O'Keefe is confident Congress will oppose ratification.

"The goals that were set in Kyoto last year - certainly with respect to the United States - cannot be met without doing damage to our economy," he said.

William O'Keefe: Kyoto protocol would cost two million US jobs in the next decade
"It would cost us in the first decade of the next century in the order of two million jobs and large increases in energy prices, and our citizens are not willing to pay that price for the possibility of something that might happen in the year 2100."


The UK Deputy Prime Minister attacked that view and accused the coalition of being blind to the truth.

"Isn't he watching the television and seeing what is happening around the world with climate change", Mr Prescott said of the coalition chairman. "Nobody doubts the science anymore. We've got to get on and deal with the problem."

BBC Environment Correspondent Richard Wilson explains how a deal could be reached
He said the compromise that would bring the Americans on side would most probably revolve around emissions trading - a process that allows countries which cut emissions below their agreed target to sell the excess as credits to countries that still have some way to go.

Mr Prescott said he was optimistic the delegates would find a deal: "I think there is every good chance they will.

"We have started the framework. We need to negotiate about it and Buenos Aires is really about how we go from here. Or do we stop here and say we are not going to do anything.

"The world will not allow us to do that. I believe we can get an agreement. It will be difficult. It was difficult at Kyoto. But I will be back to walking and talking and getting common sense into the negotiations."

In Kyoto, the industrialised countries agreed to reduce their greenhouse emissions to 5.2% below their 1990 levels by 2008-2012.

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