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India says poverty a worse problem than climate

Written by: Staff

BONN, Germany, May 17: India today said that poor nations had to give priority to ending poverty rather than fighting global warming at 189-nation U.N. climate talks criticised by environmentalists as a rambling talk shop.

Nations from Papua New Guinea to Iceland gave speeches during a novel two-day U.N. ''dialogue'' trying to bridge huge policy divides about how to slow a rise in temperatures that many scientists say could trigger catastrophic climate changes.

In one of the most forceful talks, India told rich nations to take the lead in cutting emissions of heat-trapping gases from fossil fuels, saying India needed more energy to end poverty for the 35 percent of its people living on less than a dollar a day.

''Removal of poverty is the greater immediate imperative'' than global warming, Prodipto Ghosh, Secretary of India's Environment Ministry, told the 1,600 delegates.

Environmentalists expressed disappointment at the free-wheeling nature of the speeches.

''There was no sign of real momentum here, no sign of a focus to go anywhere,'' said Bill Hare, a climate policy adviser for the environmental group Greenpeace, after the meeting of senior officials ended on Tuesday evening. ''This was a talk shop.'' UN reports say developing nations such as India are likely to be among the hardest hit by rising temperatures that many scientists say could raise sea levels by up to a metre by 2100 and cause floods, droughts and heatwaves.


South Africa, urging ''positive incentives'' to get developing nations involved in braking emissions, said warming might expand the Kalahari desert and was already forcing its wine growers to plant vines at higher altitudes.

The Bonn ''dialogue'' was agreed by ministers in Canada last year as an informal way to seek common ground between about 40 rich nations bound by the UN's Kyoto Protocol and outsiders including the United States and developing nations.

US chief climate negotiator Harlan Watson reiterated that Washington has no plans to rejoin Kyoto, which President George W.

Bush quit in 2001, saying it would cost jobs and wrongly excluded developing nations from a first round.

''It's good to have a place where we don't have to be at each others' throats,'' Watson told Reuters after a speech in which he stressed broad areas of agreement, including on a need for investments in new technologies such as solar or wind energy.

Organisers said they would condense ideas presented by the end of August before a next ''dialogue'' in Nairobi in November. The non-binding process is due to last until late 2007.

Kyoto obliges industrial nations to cut emissions of heat-trapping gases by 5.2 per cent below 1990 levels by 2008-12 as a tiny first step to cut emissions.

But Kyoto backers say that all nations should take part.

''Global joint efforts are needed in the coming decades,'' the European Union said in a statement, saying Kyoto backers ''will not be able to combat climate change effectively on their own.'' Kyoto supporters accounted for only about 30 per cent of all emissions in 2000. Among outsiders, the United States is the biggest source of emissions on 24.4 per cent, ahead of China on 12.1 per cent and India with 4.7 per cent.

Kyoto backers will meet separately in Bonn from Wednesday until May 25 to debate how to extend the pact beyond 2012.


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