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Sunday, April 26, 1998 Published at 16:47 GMT 17:47 UK


Global warming deal 'at risk'

Concern over committment of four major nations to reducing emissions

Britain has urged other European Union countries to stick to their commitments under an international agreement to combat global warming.

EU environment ministers meeting in Chester, northern England, have voiced concern that a cartel of four nations may be intending to back out of last December's Kyoto Protocol.

The British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott said the commitment of the United States, Russia, Canada and Japan to agree to legally-binding targets to cut greenhouse gases had been questioned by some EU states.

[ image: EU pressing for world agreement to cut pollution]
EU pressing for world agreement to cut pollution
There are fears that the four countries, the world's major producers of carbon-dioxide emissions, may use a loophole in the agreement to avoid the target.

Britain hosted the environment and transport summit as it holds the rotating EU presidency.

Mr Prescott said concerns centred on the possibility that the US would buy tradable greenhouse gas emission permits from Russia, which would leave its own economy unaffected by the agreement.

He urged the United States to face up to the issue of emissions instead.

"Europe has always been clear that while we will accept the (emission) trading possibilities in this matter, they should not be used as a reason for avoiding taking action in your own country," he said.

"We set a legally binding target at Kyoto and it was dependent on a window of credibility. It was about trading emissions, joint implementation and a number of measures which will have to be worked at in the years ahead," Mr Prescott added.

He promised such key subjects would be "thrashed out" at the next big green summit in Buenos Aires later this year.

Mr Prescott told the ministers he would be going to New York to sign the treaty and discuss the issue with President Clinton.

The world's industrial countries agreed at a summit in Japan last December to cut emissions by an average of five per cent below 1990 levels by 2010.

The EU signed up for an eight per cent cut.

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