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Gore: U.S. Blocking Progress On Climate

Al Gore said Thursday the United States is "principally responsible" for blocking progress in battling climate change at the U.N. climate conference.

Anger toward the Bush administration for resisting measures that would create mandatory targets for reductions in greenhouse gases was rife at the conference, where one official described the U.S. delegation as a "wrecking ball."

European nations are even threatening a boycott of U.S.-led climate talks next month unless Washington compromises on emissions reductions.

The United Nations warned that time was running out for an agreement aimed at launching negotiations for a successor to the Kyoto Protocol and the talks in Bali were in danger of "falling to pieces."

Concurrent with the conference was an announcement by NASA scientists that the rate of melting of Arctic ice, both in the sea and land-bound, was proceeding at a faster pace than expected. "The Arctic is screaming," said Mark Serreze, senior scientist at the government's snow and ice data center in Boulder, Colo.

In urging delegates to take immediate action to cut down on emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, Gore laid the blame for the lack of action so far squarely on the current U.S. administration.

"My own country, the United States, is principally responsible for obstructing progress here in Bali," said Gore, who won this year's Nobel Peace Prize for helping alert the world to the danger of climate change.

He asked delegates Thursday not to get angry, but to work toward a world which will soon have a new American president.

"Over the next two years, the United States is going to be somewhere it is not now," said Gore, who flew to the Bali meeting after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in Norway on Monday.

"One year and 40 days from today, there will be a new inauguration in the United States," he said, speaking in a conference hall and by video to delegates throughout the conference site.

"I must tell you candidly that I cannot promise that the person who is elected will have the position I expect they will have, but I can tell you I believe it is quite likely."

He noted that the U.S. Congress is moving legislation forward to impose binding emissions caps in the United States for the first time - legislation that, if passed, would likely be vetoed by Mr. Bush.

Gore told the delegates, from almost 190 nations, they have two choices here.

"You can feel anger and frustration and direct it at the United States of America, or you can make a second choice. You can decide to move forward and do all of the difficult work that needs to be done."

Gore, who helped in the final negotiation of the Kyoto pact in 1997, also called for implementing a successor agreement to Kyoto two years early, in 2010. The first implementation period of the Kyoto pact expires at the end of 2012.

"We can't afford to wait another five years," he said.

This morning, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino rejected comments by Gore who blamed the Bush administration for blocking progress, saying that the U.S. is not the only country that has concerns about setting a specific emission reduction target, reports CBS News White House correspondent Peter Maer.

Nations Threaten Boycott Over U.S. Position

As U.N. talks entered their final hours, European nations on Thursday threatened to boycott a U.S.-led climate meeting next month unless Washington agrees to a deal mentioning numerical targets for deep reductions in global warming gases.

The United States, Japan, Russia and several other governments refuse to accept language in a draft document suggesting that industrialized nations consider cutting emissions by 25 percent to 40 percent by 2020, saying specific targets would limit the scope of future talks.

The European Union and others say the figures reflect the measures scientists say are needed to rein in global warming and head off predictions of rising sea levels, worsening floods and droughts, and the extinction of plant and animal species.

"No result in Bali means no Major Economies Meeting," said Sigmar Gabriel, top EU environment official from Germany, referring to a series of separate climate talks initiated by U.S. President George W. Bush in September.

"This is the clear position of the EU. I do not know what we should talk about if there is no target."

Brazil's Climate Change Ambassador Sergio Barbosa Serra said his government was not threatening a boycott, but would take any omission of numerical targets "into account" when it decides whether to attend the Major Economies Meeting.

The U.S. invited 16 other major economies to that Washington meeting, including European countries, Japan, China and India, to discuss a program of what it expects would be nationally determined, voluntary cutbacks in greenhouse gas emissions.

Those meetings were criticized for shunning mandatory reductions in favor of each nation setting voluntary goals towards a still-to-be-defined future goal.

The White House said European threats to boycott next month's U.S.-led climate change meeting are "not constructive," reports Maer. Press Secretary Dana Perino also noted that a boycott is not the "official position" of the European Union.

Environmentalists accuse the U.S. of trying to undermine the U.N. process, which since Kyoto has focused on internationally binding targets. Many delegates here believe no such international action is possible until the Bush administration leaves the White House.

But U.N. climate chief Yvo de Boer said he was worried the U.S.-EU deadlock could derail the process and that a final "Bali roadmap" would contain an agreement to negotiate a new climate deal by 2009, but may not include specific targets for emission reductions.

"I'm very concerned about the pace of things," he said. "If we don't get wording on the future, then the whole house of cards falls to pieces."

The United States delegation said while it continues to reject inclusion of specific emission cut targets, it hopes eventually to reach an agreement that is "environmentally effective" and "economically sustainable."

The United States is the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases and the only major industrial country to have rejected Kyoto, which expires in 2012. It has been on the defensive since the conference kicked off on Dec. 3.

Pressure has come even from a one-time ally on climate, Australia, whose new prime minister urged Washington to "embrace" binding targets, and from former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, who won this year's Nobel Peace Prize for helping alert the world to the danger of climate change.

But U.S. Under Secretary of State Paula Dobriansky, the head of the American delegation, told reporters that the conference was simply the start of negotiations, not the end.

"We don't have to resolve all these issues ... here in Bali," she said.

That did not satisfy environmentalists, who accused Washington of standing in the way of a meaningful deal - and not just on the inclusion of emissions targets.

"We know that there is a wrecking crew in Bali led by the U.S. administration and its minions," said Jennifer Morgan, spokeswoman for environmental groups on Bali. "They are working hard to pull out the bits of text that matter to developing countries on finance and technology."

In the end, however, all parties agree it is vital that the U.S. is on board.

"Everyone wants the United States in so badly that they will be willing to accept some level of ambiguity in the negotiations," said Greenpeace energy expert John Coequyt. "Our worry is that we will end up with a deal that is unacceptable from an environmental perspective."

The Kyoto Protocol requires 37 industrial nations to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by a relatively modest average 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.

Mr. Bush has continually claimed that the pact would harm the U.S. economy.

He has also made opposing arguments against global agreements. While he criticized Kyoto for not forcing emissions cutbacks on developing economies, like China and India, Mr. Bush now says that such countries should not have mandatory targets imposed upon them in any new agreement, because their economies' ability to grow would be inhibited.

Cap-And-Trade Has Fans And Critics

Nations are not the only governments studying targets on reducing emissions. Many U.S. states and cities are taking their own actions paralleling the Kyoto Protocol.

Many are advocating a "cap-and-trade" program, whereby emissions of carbon dioxide by industries are traded on the market. Companies which reduce their emissions below certain targets can then sell their allotment of allowed emissions to those who are failing to meet their reductions targets.

This system creates a profit motive for companies to employ greener technologies, energy efficiencies and other measures to cut emissions. It is the basis of the America's Climate Security Act, sponsored by Sens. John Warner, R-Va., and Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn.

Current cap-and-trade programs in carbon have given rise to a multibillion-dollar global industry of brokers, analysts and project managers dealing in such carbon credits and "green" projects that produce them.

However, New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, appearing at Bali, said the growing carbon cap-and-trade industry is vulnerable to "special interests, corruption, inefficiencies," and should be replaced by straight carbon taxes.

Speaking of global warming, Bloomberg said, "Most experts would agree that the way to solve the problem is with a carbon tax."

Bloomberg, who addresses the conference Friday as a representative of the world's local governments, told a meeting with environmentalists Thursday that carbon trading "is attractive to many politicians because it doesn't have that three-letter word 'tax.'"

"But it's a very inefficient way to accomplish the same thing that a carbon tax accomplishes," he said. "It leaves itself open to special interests, corruption, inefficiencies."

Some environmentalists complain the process has been corrupted by projects in the developing world awarded more carbon credits than they deserve, and has become unduly influenced by financial companies that have jumped into the action in a big way.

Many environmentalists say a carbon tax - heavy government levies on coal, oil and other fossil fuels - is a better, more direct way to discourage global-warming emissions, and to finance environmentally friendly policies and technology.

"You really want to tax the coal producers in a way that coal producers could reduce that tax by investing in technology and in ways to make coal a cleaner-burning, less polluting fuel," Bloomberg said.

He said most experts would agree that carbon taxes are "a very difficult political lift," since they would probably boost costs for energy consumers.

"But that's what leadership is all about, and we need leaders around the world who get things done," the New York City mayor said.

At the conference Friday, Bloomberg is expected to tout his new plan to reduce global-warming emissions in New York City by 30 percent by 2030 by, among other measures, improving energy efficiency in buildings, requiring taxi fleets to convert to hybrid vehicles, and levying a fee on drivers entering Manhattan business districts.

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