From: Alister Doyle, Reuters
Published November 24, 2004 12:00 AM

Arctic States Agree Vague Plan to Slow Thaw

REYKJAVIK − Eight Arctic countries agreed a vague plan to counter a rapid melt of the region on Wednesday with indigenous peoples accusing the United States of blocking stronger action aimed at slowing global warming.


The United States, Russia, Canada and the five Nordic states, which all have territories stretching into the Arctic, encouraged "effective measures" to adapt to climate change without spelling out exactly how.


And governments noted "with concern" a report by 250 scientists this month warning that the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the globe. They would take the findings into account in policies on everything from research to aiding indigenous peoples.


"We all need to intensify efforts against pollution in the Arctic," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at the one-day meeting in Iceland.


But environmentalists, indigenous peoples and some of the nations had wanted an accord urging sharp cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from cars and factories blamed for a warming that could melt the ice around the North Pole in summer by 2100.


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"In terms of what the planet needs, this is far from enough," said Sheila Watt-Cloutier, chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, which says it represents 155,000 people in Canada, Alaska, Greenland and Russia.


Still, she said that a seven-page policy document was more than she had expected from the consensus-based Arctic Council.


The United States said it would not sign up for any calls for caps in emissions of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide. Washington is the only nation of the eight outside the 128-nation Kyoto protocol on curbing global warming.


Ostrich


"I don't know why the United States is like an ostrich burying its head in the sand," said chief Gary Harrison of the Arctic Athabaskan Council, which represents thousands of people in Canada and Alaska.


But Paula Dobriansky, U.S. Under Secretary, Global Affairs, rebuffed the criticisms. "We base our policies on science and we will take the findings (of the report) into account," she said.


"We have a vibrant national programme" for addressing climate change, she told Reuters, saying that the United States was spending $5.8 billion on projects ranging from promoting renewable energy to burying carbon dioxide below ground.


Even so, environmentalists said the meeting was a lost opportunity to slow damaging climate change by the eight countries, which account for 40 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.


"Arctic governments miss chance to show leadership on climate change," the WWF environmental group said. It urged all governments in the region to promise deep cuts in greenhouse gases.


Source: Reuters


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