EU Environment Chief Blasts U.S., Australia Over Global Warming

The EU's chief environmental official urged the United States and Australia to do more to cut greenhouse gases, saying Monday their cooperation was critical in the fight against global warming.

At the start of a five-day U.N. climate change conference, EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas criticized the two major holdouts to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol for their reluctance to join the 27-nation EU and other rich countries in fighting climate change.

Dimas said the U.S. should end its "negative attitude" toward international negotiations on a new climate change pact to reduce emissions, which could start in December.

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"We expect from the United States to cooperate closer," Dimas said. "It is absolutely necessary that they move because, otherwise other countries, especially the less developing countries, do not have any reason to move."

Dimas also criticized Australia for not applying Kyoto, which requires 35 industrial nations to cut greenhouses gases. Australia is ranked as the world's worst greenhouse gas emitter per capita, largely due to its reliance on coal-fired power stations.

Prime Minister John Howard has argued that Kyoto could cost Australian jobs because neither China nor India were held to carbon pollution reduction targets.

The five-day meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC — a network of more than 2,000 scientists — will finalize a report on how warming will affect the globe and whether humans can do anything about it.

"From a human point of view this is absolutely critical," the U.N. panel's chairman, climatologist Rajendra Pachauri of India, said. "We need to understand what climate change means for us in our own lives and how its going to affect both natural and social systems."

The meeting is expected to endorse a draft U.N. study that paints a bleak picture of increasing poverty, scarce drinking water, melting glaciers and polar ice caps, and a host of vanishing species by mid-century unless emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases are curbed.

The report, drafted by the world's top climate change experts, will be presented at a Group of Eight leaders summit in June in Germany, which the EU will use to pressure President Bush to sign on to international talks to cut emissions.

Dimas said the EU's recent pledge to cut carbon emissions by at least 20 percent from 1990 levels by 2020 was partly due to the IPCC's earlier report last month. The EU said it could go to 30 percent if other countries join.

The Bush administration has argued the Kyoto Protocol would hurt the U.S. economy and also objects that the protocol exempts China and India from emission reductions.

The meeting could also focus on predictions of how many people will be at high risk from changing ecosystems, and whether specific weather events like Hurricane Katrina should be attributed to global warming.

Martin Hiller, climate change expert at environmental group WWF, said the conference was "crucial" to change governmental policy.

"We want to see what needs to be done to protect vulnerable communities. People who live in areas which are already affected by climate change, through drought, through flooding, through problems with their drinking water supply," Hiller said. "We need to see what can be done to protect them now."

A draft of the IPCC's summary has been obtained by The Associated Press, but policy makers will go over the document this week before unveiling the final text Friday.

It is the second of four reports by the IPCC. The first, issued in February, updated the science of climate change, concluding with near certainty that global warming is caused by human behavior.

"Many natural systems on all continents and in some oceans are being affected by regional climate changes, particularly temperature increases," reads the draft.