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Last Updated: Saturday, 6 December, 2003, 14:41 GMT
Demand for 'Kyoto tax' on the US
Factory, AP
Scientists say the climate is warming
Countries refusing to cut their emissions of greenhouse gases should face trade sanctions, according to a British independent think-tank.

The United States has not signed the Kyoto agreement on climate change and Russia has indicated it may follow.

The New Economics Foundation wants the EU to tax imports from these countries because they enjoy a competitive advantage as energy costs increase.

Signed-up countries are currently meeting in Italy to discuss the treaty.

New Economics Foundation spokesman Andrew Simms told BBC Radio 4's Today programme EU countries would be within their rights to "work out the cost of the free ride America is getting" and raise that amount.

We are about half a century away from being ecologically and economically bankrupt because of global warming
Andrew Simms
New Economics Foundation
"There are very few signals the United States understands - they do understand economic signals," Mr Simms added.

"There is only a certain amount of time people can go around behaving like teenagers who don't have to care about anybody else," he told Today.

"We are about half a century away from being ecologically and economically bankrupt because of global warming."

The British diplomat who proposed environmental sanctions 20 years ago, Sir Crispin Tickell, told the programme the United States' refusal to sign the United Nations Climate Change Convention was the "height of irresponsibility".

The protocol, negotiated to implement the convention, requires industrialised countries to cut their emissions of six gases which scientists believe are exacerbating natural climate change.

Milan meeting, AFP
Signatories to Kyoto are currently meeting in Milan
Signatories will by some time between 2008 and 2012 have to cut emissions to 5.2% below their 1990 levels.

But many scientists say cuts of around 60-70% will be needed by mid-century to avoid runaway climate change.

The protocol will enter into legal force when 55 signatories have ratified it, including industrialised countries responsible for 55% of the developed world's carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 1990.

Some critics say President Bush's decision that the US, which emits more greenhouse gases than any other country, would not ratify the protocol has already condemned it to irrelevance.

The agreement faces collapse without ratification from Russia, which is responsible for 17% of global emissions, but seems to be pulling away from backing it because it says it will limit economic growth.

A senior Russian adviser said the country would not sign the agreement, although another minister then said he supported it.

Russia's climate tussle spins on
04 Dec 03  |  Science/Nature
Russia pulls away from Kyoto
02 Dec 03  |  Science/Nature
Cars risk Europe's climate cuts
02 Dec 03  |  Science/Nature
US hails own climate policies
01 Dec 03  |  Science/Nature
Climate talks end without result
03 Oct 03  |  Science/Nature
Climate change: The big emitters
29 Sep 03  |  Science/Nature


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