Commonwealth not strong enough on climate-St. Kitts

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KAMPALA, Nov 25 (Reuters) The Commonwealth did not go far enough in pushing rich countries to tackle climate change at its Kampala summit, the prime minister of a Caribbean island nation menaced by rising sea levels said today.

A statement issued by the club of mostly former British colonies on Saturday contained only vague language and did not call for binding targets on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which many members had said they wanted.

''The general view is that the document ... could have gone further. We are one of the groups who believe that it should have gone further,'' St Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Denzil Douglas told reporters.

Before the summit, Britain had called for an unequivocal message on climate change that would urge developed nations to make binding commitments at a world environment conference in Bali next month.

''We believe that a number of developed countries have not given the commitment we expected,'' Douglas said. ''They are the main contributors to the imbalance in climatic conditions and they should contribute much more.'' The Commonwealth declaration said global warming was ''a direct threat to the very survival of some Commonwealth countries, notably small island states''.

It said developed countries should take the lead in cutting emissions, but gave no details as to how.

St Kitts is among countries likely to be worst hit by global warming, as rising sea levels engulf its populated coast and higher ocean temperatures increase the frequency and severity of its hurricanes, scientists say.

The island of just 101 square miles (261 square km), is home to around 40,000 people, most living in coastal areas.

Douglas said rich countries should compensate poor and middle income countries negatively affected by climate change.

''How many of our own economies in the Caribbean have been decimated as a result of continuing hurricanes? The financial burden of debt is a result of continuing natural disasters which are related to climactic instability,'' he said.

The Bali meeting will discuss an agreement to succeed the Kyoto protocol, which aims to reduce emissions of the gases that cause climate change. Kyoto expires in 2012.

The treaty exempted developing nations, including major emitters India and China, from reduction targets.

The Commonwealth prides itself on reaching decisions by consensus and Canada's insistence that any declaration must include developing as well as developed nations led to a weaker than expected statement, summit sources said.

Canada's conservative government said on Friday it would not sign any statement in Kampala unless it called on all major emitters, including India and China, to make cuts.

Asked about Canada's position and the failure to issue a stronger statement, Malaysia Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said on Sunday: ''In some way I do feel a little bit disappointed.'' He said Malaysia had hoped for specific targets on emission cuts in the Commonwealth statement. ''But it was not possible.'' Reuters SYU DB1907

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