Climate Talks Held Despite Kyoto Rift
HELSINKI -- The United States and the European Union met on Tuesday in Helsinki to seek ways to curb greenhouse gases and promote clean energies, setting aside years of disputes over the U.N.'s Kyoto Protocol which caps emissions.
Finnish Environment Minister Jan-Erik Enestam said that for now Kyoto was "dead in the United States", and the two sides had to "concentrate on other issues and new tracks".
Enestam, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, was speaking to Reuters just before the start of two days of talks on climate change, clean energy and sustainable development.
The EU is a strong backer of Kyoto, the main U.N. plan for capping greenhouse gas emissions and meant to help avert climate changes that could bring desertification, floods, heat waves and rising sea levels.
U.S. President George W. Bush pulled out of Kyoto in 2001, arguing that binding caps on emissions -- mainly from burning coal and oil -- would cost U.S. jobs and that Kyoto wrongly left out developing nations from a first round lasting until 2012.
Disagreements over Kyoto have long cast a shadow over trans-Atlantic environmental cooperation. The United States is the world's top emitter of greenhouse gases, and its absence from Kyoto weakens the U.N. plan.
"The meeting underlines that the European Union and the United States share common objectives," said Paula Dobriansky, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, who heads the U.S. delegation.
"Topics will include policies for reducing greenhouse gases, carbon capture and storage," she told Reuters.
Enestam noted this would "be the first time that we meet to discuss" issues such as climate change, clean energy and sustainable development "on a political level".
He added: "We are not speaking about Kyoto during this meeting."
Bush favours voluntary goals for cutting the amount of carbon emitted by the U.S. economy, a less tough target than Kyoto-style caps. Bush also favours big investments in new technologies, such as hydrogen or "clean coal".
Divided by Kyoto, the two sides agreed to the Helsinki dialogue at a summit in June. Enestam said areas of discussion would range from cleaner diesel fuels to the loss of species worldwide.
A technological breakthrough to capture and bury carbon dioxide emissions from the exhausts of a coal-fired power plant, for instance, would help curb global warming, not least in fast-growing nations such as China or India.
Finland's Minister of Trade and Industry Mauri Pekkarinen and U.S. Under Secretary of Energy David Garman will also attend, along with representatives of the EU Commission and Germany, which will be EU president for 6 months from January.