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U.N. conference on global warming begins

Officials from 150 countries, including Switzerland, opened a two-week conference in Germany Monday to discuss cuts in emissions of the so-called "greenhouse gases," which are widely blamed for global warming.

This content was published on October 25, 1999 - 18:01

Officials from 150 countries, including Switzerland, opened a two-week conference in Germany Monday to discuss cuts in emissions of the so-called "greenhouse gases," which are widely blamed for global warming.

Two years ago, a United Nations conference in Kyoto, Japan, agreed to establish global standards for reducing pollution. Delegates decided that, by 2008-2012, industrialised nations should cut emissions by 5.2 percent from 1990 levels.

The talks in Bonn are now aimed at filling some gaps in the agreement, such as the precise timetable for the implementation of cutbacks.

In his opening address, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder called on nations to end often serious differences and implement an agreement on global warming by 2002 -- substantially earlier than many have indicated they are prepared to.

"No other environmental problem poises such a threat to all of humanity," Schroeder said. "The Kyoto Protocol must be put into force as soon as possible, the latest in 2002."

The gaps in past agreements also include the absence of a penalty system for countries which fail to meet emission targets on greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.

Switzerland favours a system of economic incentives and wants a strict enforcement mechanism.

Conference officials do not expect a resolution of all differences but hope that the next major global warming conference in 2000 will wrap up the final details.

A key issue that divides the United States and many other nations is the purchase of pollution "credits" from other nations. Washington wants to allow the unlimited purchase of such credits, whereas the European Union seeks a limit.

The credits would allow heavy polluting nations to buy flexibility in reaching their emissions targets from those countries that comfortably fulfil their targets.

From staff and wire reports.

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