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The BBC's Rome Correspondent David Willey
"President Bush may not walk away from the Kyoto treaty"
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Sunday, 4 March, 2001, 13:43 GMT
G8 progress on climate change

Last year's floods in the UK have been linked to climate change
The world's major economic powers have come a step nearer patching up differences on environmental policy which prompted the humiliating collapse of key talks in November.

Environment ministers from the so-called G8 countries - comprising the seven leading industrialised nations plus Russia - agreed an initial compromise over action for countering global climate change.

The ministers, meeting in Trieste, Italy, unanimously expressed "concern about the seriousness" of the phenomenon, and said they would "strive to reach agreement" in July in Bonn at the next set of talks on the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty on measures to counter climate change.

The statement will be welcomed by many observers as evidence of a narrowing in the policy differences between EU nations and the US which prompted the collapse of Kyoto talks in The Hague in last year.

But Sunday's agreement failed to commit all G8 nations to ratifying the protocol ahead of a 2002 summit on environmental problems.

And Christie Whitman, the chief US delegate at Trieste, said the new administration in Washington needed time to assess its policy on global warming.

The US will not, however, necessarily tun its back on the Kyoto Protocol, which President George W Bush opposed while on the campaign trail, Ms Whitman said.

Landmark agreement

The protocol, agreed in 1997, calls for reductions in the emission of gases, such as carbon dioxide, feared by some to be linked to ongoing changes in global weather patterns.

So-called "greenhouse" gases, named because of their ability to trap heat, have been blamed by many scientists to phenomena such as last autumn's floods in the UK. There are other scientists, however, who believe the link is either overstated or just plan wrong.

While many EU states have prioritised the imposition of international cuts in greenhouse gas emission, and the UK for instance is introducing a tax on polluting industries, the US has followed a broader interpretation of the protocol.

US chiefs have pressed for greater notice to be taken of countries' "carbon sinks" - living assets such as forests which soak up greenhouse gases - in setting emission quotas.

Besides Russia and the US, the G8 includes Italy, Canada, Germany, France, Japan and Britain, with the European Commission also represented in Trieste.

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