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Monday, 11 June, 2001, 19:46 GMT 20:46 UK
Bush and EU seek climate concord
President Bush and Vice President Cheney
Bush reaffirmed his rejection of the Kyoto protocol
By BBC News Online's environment correspondent Alex Kirby

Two months ago, after President Bush repudiated the Kyoto Protocol, there seemed little prospect that he and the Europeans could even manage to talk about climate change.

Ahead of Mr Bush's prepares meeting with the European Union heads of government in the Swedish city of Gothenburg, they seemed to have found a common language.

Missile defence
Missile defence will also be high on the agenda
But it remained anyone's guess whether they would all end up singing from the same hymn sheet.

Mr Bush seems intent on being conciliatory.

His rejection of the scientific argument that global warming is happening has gone.

And he has tempered his espousal of coal and oil as the chief answer to his country's energy supply problems.

More research

Mr Bush is calling for expanded research into global warming, and proposing to seek technologies that can curb greenhouse gases.

But it would be premature to conclude that this means the protocol will now be salvaged when the stalled international climate talks resume in Bonn next month.

President Bush is in Europe for several reasons, and climate change is almost certainly not the chief one - world trade and his plans for an anti-missile defence system are likely to loom far larger.

So it is probable that there will be some trading in Gothenburg - that is how international diplomacy works, after all.

And some of his hosts may feel inclined to make concessions on climate change in order to secure what they want on trade and defence.

Eroding support

There have been signs that the Belgians might think this way, and the new right-wing Italian Government of Silvio Berlusconi is also thought to be arguing for the EU to lean further towards the American position.

Beyond that, climate campaigners say that support for Kyoto comes from European environment ministers, but not unambiguously from their heads of government.

That could further erode the EU's negotiating position, which to outsiders can seem contradictory enough at the best of times.

Gas emissions
Environmentalists argue that ratifying Kyoto is vital

Mr Bush's team is working on an alternative to Kyoto, one which will acknowledge that climate change is an urgent problem but will take account of the objections he raised in March.

These are that the protocol would unfairly penalise the American economy, and that it would leave developing countries without any obligation to reduce their own emissions of the gases scientists say are warming the Earth.

Yawning gap

The EU argues that tackling climate change need not be economically damaging, and can in fact give countries an edge over their competitors.

And it points to the protocol's requirement for developing countries to start cutting their own emissions in a few years from now.

But the early signs are that the Atlantic gulf still yawns wide.

Kate Hampton, Friends of the Earth International's climate change co-ordinator, said, "President Bush's speech shows that it is 'business as usual' for the world's biggest polluter, and that he has ignored the realists in his own cabinet and allies abroad."

She added: "The world needs mandatory targets, emissions reductions and clean technologies - not voluntary schemes, carbon sinks and nuclear power... It's time for the world to ratify Kyoto."

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See also:

11 Jun 01 | Americas
Bush faces up to Kyoto critics
31 Mar 01 | Europe
Europe backs Kyoto accord
30 Mar 01 | Americas
Kyoto: Why did the US pull out?
29 Mar 01 | Sci/Tech
US facing climate isolation
28 Mar 01 | Sci/Tech
Anger as US abandons Kyoto
28 Mar 01 | Sci/Tech
US blow to Kyoto hopes
22 Jan 01 | Sci/Tech
Global warming 'not clear cut'
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