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The BBC's Margaret Gilmore in The Hague
"Everyone knew the stakes were high"
 real 56k

UK Deputy PM, John Prescott, leaving the talks
"There is no deal"
 real 56k

Jan Pronk, conference chairman
"I am very disappointed"
 real 56k

Saturday, 25 November, 2000, 15:40 GMT
Climate talks end in failure

Environmentalists have attacked the breakdown
By BBC News Online's environment correspondent Alex Kirby in The Hague

Two weeks of negotiations on tackling climate change have collapsed without agreement.

"I am very disappointed, said conference chairman and Dutch environment minister Jan Pronk. "We have not lived up to the expectations of the outside world."

John Prescott
John Prescott: "gutted" by the failure
UK Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, had earlier walked out of the meeting, saying: "I'm gutted we didn't make it. There is no deal. The world needs Kyoto, it needs a deal, and people have to go on trying to get one.

"We came so close, but we couldn't get an agreement."

The failure of the talks to reach agreement on the detailed working of the international climate treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, means its ratification will now be delayed.

Mr Pronk said that would make it impossible for some countries to reach their targets for cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases.

I wouldn't say it's a failure - it's a non-success.

Danish Environment Minister Sven Auken
Mr Prescott had tried to reconcile divisions between the EU and the US-led bloc, the Umbrella Group, after the talks became deadlocked in the early hours of Saturday.

The Americans apparently softened their position slightly, but several EU governments were dismayed by the UK proposal, and all four Nordic ministers rejected it.

Danish Environment Minister Sven Auken said: "I'm certain a deal can be achieved within this framework, but not at this meeting.

"Everyone's worked so hard - I've been working for three days and nights. It's a personal disappointment to all of us. But it would have been a miracle to have got a deal here."

Carbon sinks

US sources say they had reached agreement with several EU ministers "from across the ideological spectrum" on the basis of the proposal put forward by Mr Prescott.

This meeting will be remembered as the moment when governments abandoned the promise of global co-operation to protect planet Earth

The US says it was the question of the use to be made of "carbon sinks" - forests and grasslands which mop up carbon dioxide and store it for a time - that prevented the EU endorsing the UK's initiative.

The EU and the Americans remain fundamentally at odds over the question of sinks.

The EU fears that countries may claim that all their greenhouse gases are being absorbed by sinks, and that they therefore do not need to make any actual reductions in the pollution they emit from chimneys, vehicle exhausts and other sources.

Another outstanding issue - whether countries will have to concentrate on action at home to meet their Kyoto targets - also divides the two blocs.

Tentative plans

There are tentative plans for the conference to resume some time in 2001, perhaps in the German city of Bonn, and the optimists are talking of a "suspension" of the talks, rather than a breakdown.

Frank Loy,  head of the United States delegation
Head of US delegation, Frank Loy, with much to think about
But it is hard to see how another session will manage to grasp the victory that eluded the negotiators in The Hague.

The conference hall is already ringing with condemnations of those held to blame for the failure of the talks.

The World Wildlife Fund said: "Persistent efforts to weaken the Kyoto Protocol, in particular on the part of the US, Japan, Canada and Australia, brought the talks to the current impasse."

Opportunity missed?

Friends of the Earth International blamed the US and its supporters for the breakdown, together with some of the world's largest companies, which it said were trying to block effective action against climate

Greenpeace said: "This meeting will be remembered as the moment when governments abandoned the promise of global co-operation to protect planet Earth."

But a US group, the National Environmental Trust, said The Hague was "likely to have been the European nations' best opportunity to achieve a strong climate treaty, and they decided to pass it up.

"After January, they could face a Bush administration almost certain to push for bigger loopholes. There is no excuse for having walked away."

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25 Nov 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Science takes a back seat
23 Nov 00 | Sci/Tech
Climate treaty 'almost irrelevant'
28 Oct 00 | Sci/Tech
Global warming 'worse than feared'
07 Aug 00 | Sci/Tech
The dangers of climate change
25 Nov 00 | UK Politics
Angry Prescott storms out
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