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Last Updated: Friday, 16 February 2007, 02:13 GMT
Hard bargaining produces climate deal
By Roger Harrabin
Environment analyst, BBC News, Washington

Canada's arctic
Global warming will melt polar ice, the UN has warned
Law-makers from the world's top polluting nations have made something of a breakthrough deal on a new global framework for tackling climate change.

The statement from the Global Legislators Organisation for a Balanced Environment (Globe) forum brings together Americans, Chinese, Indians, Brazilians, Canadians and Europeans into a surprising agreement about the way ahead.

It has no government authority. But it will be sent to the meeting of G8 world leaders, so it is significant.

It has three main planks - firstly, an agreement that all countries had to face targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

It has been a major bone of contention in the United States that China and India do not have targets at the moment - so that is useful.

American shift

Secondly, it urges the G8 to set a very aggressive timetable for a deal to replace the Kyoto protocol when the first period ends in 2012.

Talks should be launched at the UN meeting in Bali in November and concluded by 2009. This is very ambitious.

Thirdly, it demands world leaders agree to a top limit beyond which carbon dioxide emissions should not go - between 450 and 550 parts per million.

Steel factory, Chongqing, China
China and India currently have no targets for emissions cuts
That is far too high for the German G8 adviser here - he says it is reckless. But at least it would be a limit where none exists now.

The notion of a stabilisation goal has been championed by the British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The legislators' deal was forged by the British delegation working round the clock in the majestic columned hall at the US Senate where the Watergate hearings were held.

The British prime minister's climate envoy Elliot Morley was in the chair, with Mr Blair's Sherpa for the Gleneagles G8 meeting - Lord Jay - working behind the scenes.

What has been particularly remarkable over the past few days is to witness the shift in American opinion.

A procession of top US politicians shared their conviction that the US was just about to make mandatory cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

The president's official spokesman did not say that, but the senators think they can either bypass the president or wait him out.

Political lag

Binding limits will not be imposed without a fight. Larry Craig the Republican member of the energy committee changed the mood by asserting that it was only "possible" that greenhouse gas emissions were cranking up the climate.

He said he could not support anything that would reduce American growth, and suggested that the slower growth in Europe was partly due to carbon dioxide controls.

Cars   Image: Getty

He was strongly challenged by a German MP who said low German growth was due to an inflexible labour market and complained that the US wanted international help from its allies in war - but was not prepared to behave like an ally on climate.

Senator Craig was later buttonholed by a shouting female Italian Green MP as he emerged from a side door - his face an impassive senatorial mask, his eyes alarmed and darting for an escape route.

He was rebuked by the man who failed to beat President George W Bush last time round - John Kerry.

He pledged that mandatory greenhouse gas cuts would be agreed in Congress over the next few years, maybe even under George Bush if he was presented with legislation overwhelmingly supported by Congress.

Scientists present lamented that the politics still lagged far behind what was need to protect the climate - but this political deal is movement of sorts.

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