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Control global warming: Annan

Maasai women among protesters during a rally in Nairobi on Saturday.

Maasai women among protesters during a rally in Nairobi on Saturday.   | Photo Credit: PHOTO: AP

Says it will not cost much to cut greenhouse gas emissions

NAIROBI: Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the U.N. conference on climate change on Wednesday that it's clear it would cost far less to cut greenhouse-gas emissions now ``than to deal with the consequences later''.

``Let no one say we cannot afford to act,'' Mr. Annan declared, in a reference to those, such as the Bush administration, who contend that reducing global-warming gases would set back economies too much.

The U.N. chief also lamented ``a frightening lack of leadership'' in fashioning next steps in reducing global emissions. ``Let us start being more politically courageous,'' he urged the hundreds of delegates from some 180 member-nations of the 1992 U.N. climate treaty.

Their two-week annual meeting, entering its final three days, has been working on technical issues involving the Kyoto Protocol, which obliges 35 industrial nations to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 5 per cent below 1990 levels by 2012.

Cutbacks

The United States and Australia are the only major industrialised countries to reject that 1997 treaty annex. U.S. President George W. Bush says it would harm the U.S. economy, and it should have required cutbacks in poorer nations as well.

Scientists attribute at least some of the past century's 0.6-degree-Celsius (1-degree-Fahrenheit) rise in global temperatures to the atmospheric accumulation of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases, byproducts of power plants, automobiles and other fossil fuel-burning sources. Continued temperature rises could seriously disrupt the climate, they say. Talks here focused on how to set emissions quotas for the post-2012 period a regime others hope will include the United States, the biggest emitter.

Ministers from around the world were arriving here for high-level bargaining on key issues. They must ``show to the world that there is a continuation of the Kyoto Protocol,'' said Catherine Pearce, of the environmental group Friends of the Earth.

At best, however, the conference may simply set a timetable for continuing talks into next year. Many here think real negotiations must await the end of the Bush administration.

``The United States will return to the negotiating table with a serious proposal when a new President takes office in 2009,'' said veteran conference observer Philip Clapp.

Other campaigners oppose this strategy of marking time. ``That won't work. It would allow the U.S. to hold the negotiations hostage,'' said Hans Verolme, spokesman for Climate Action Network, an alliance of environmentalist groups. AP

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