- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 12, 2001

BRUSSELS — The European Union's top environment official said yesterday she feared the United States was trying to wreck next week's international negotiations to salvage the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom said she believed the United States was pressuring its allies to block a deal that would save the 1997 agreement on cutting greenhouse gases that President Bush rejected in March.

"We have been relying on their promise to us not to obstruct the Kyoto process. It's important that they don't put too much pressure on their partners in the so-called umbrella group not to take part and negotiate," Mrs. Wallstrom said in an interview.

The umbrella group is made up of the conservative countries that have negotiated climate change measures alongside the United States — Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Norway.

"I think that they are putting rather high pressure on their partners in the umbrella group," Mrs. Wallstrom said.

Mrs. Wallstrom wants those countries to join the EU in pushing ahead with the Kyoto deal despite the U.S. withdrawal.

The U.N.-sponsored deal commits developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 percent of 1990 levels by 2012. The talks next week in Bonn are aimed at defining the rules on how the deal will work in practice.

The Swedish environment chief's downbeat comments came a day after she returned from an unsuccessful mission to Canberra, Australia, and Tokyo to try to persuade them to give unequivocal backing to Kyoto.

Australia told the EU it would not go ahead without the United States.

Japan said the question was premature as it hoped to be able to persuade the United States to return to the deal before the Bonn talks a scenario the EU considers inconceivable.

Japanese Environment Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi is due to visit Washington tomorrow to discuss the issue.

As a signatory to the U.N. climate change convention, the United States has a right to attend the talks on Kyoto even though it has rejected the deal.

Japan's support for Kyoto is considered vital if the deal is to survive. For Kyoto to become a legally binding international agreement, it must be ratified by 55 signatories representing at least 55 percent of developed countries' emissions.

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