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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 August 2005, 01:48 GMT 02:48 UK
Talks renew vigour to tackle warming
By Roger Harrabin
BBC environment correspondent

Maybe it was the night cruise with ice crunching against the prow of the boat and icebergs the shape and size of medieval castles floating serenely past.

Danish environment minister Connie Hedegaard (right) and her South African and Canadian counterparts Marthinus Christoffel (left) and Stephane Dion, AFP
The meeting drew 25 environment ministers from different countries
Maybe it was the helicopter flight over the ice-packed fjord to witness one of the fastest-melting glaciers in the world.

Perhaps it was the expert presentations warning that if carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions continue to rise, the melting Greenland ice sheet will drive up global sea levels.

Whatever the reason, politicians from all around the world visiting the Arctic on a fact-finding trip left professing new determination that action to tackle climate change must be taken everywhere.

Genuine dialogue

Ministers and climate negotiators from 22 nations arrived at the tiny west Greenland village of Ilulissat at the invitation of Denmark, in conjunction with the Greenland government.

Danish environment minister Connie Hedegaard said she wanted to create a forum where politicians could enjoy a genuine dialogue on climate.

During the usual UN climate negotiations, she said, the majority of agreements were reached between civil servants, and ministers arrived in time only to argue over the details of disputed text.

At a news conference after the meeting, she said the gathering had helped to build on momentum gained at the G8 Summit at Gleneagles, Scotland, in July.

At the summit, all leading nations agreed climate change was a serious problem that had to be tackled.

Scientific consensus

South African environment minister Marthinus Christoffel said a watershed had been crossed.

Greenland, AP
Greenland could be badly affected by rising temperatures around the globe
Until now developing countries had believed it was not in their interest to shift their economies to prioritise emissions reduction, he said.

Now his government accepted that playing a part to reduce the growth in emissions was in South Africa's own interest to shield its economy from the havoc that could be wreaked by climate change.

Together the ministers said they looked forward to December's meeting of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Montreal, Canada, where they would map out future world climate policy.

Expressing confidence

All the ministers at the news conference expressed confidence that the Montreal meeting would improve the performance of the Clean Development Mechanism designed to provide cash for green technology in developing countries.

But there were two sour notes. Firstly, India's environment minister withdrew from the conference at the last minute.

Other delegates privately described India's position as a serious problem at climate talks because, unlike China, the country's ministers insisted on sticking rigidly to the original UN climate convention.

This stated that developing nations were not obliged to tackle emissions until developed nations had cut their pollution.

The second perceived let-down was the position of the US chief climate negotiator delegate, Harlan Watson.

Just weeks after President Bush put his signature to the Gleneagles declaration that climate change was a serious problem facing the world, Dr Watson told a Radio Greenland journalist that the US was still unconvinced by the consensus science on climate.

He later declined to be interviewed by BBC News.

Scientists' grim climate report
03 Feb 05 |  Science/Nature
Scientists assess climate dangers
30 Jan 05 |  Science/Nature

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