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US and EU agree to boost environment cooperation

Written by: Staff

HELSINKI, Oct 25 (Reuters) The United States and the European Union agreed tighter cooperation on renewable energy, ''clean coal'' and other environmental policies today, despite splits over the UN's Kyoto Protocol on global warming.

After a two-day meeting in Finland, which holds the EU's rotating presidency, delegates agreed to a second round in the United States in 2007 to continue dialogue on ''climate change, clean energy and sustainable development''.

''The EU and US delegations agreed to strengthen bilateral cooperation,'' the two sides said in a joint statement after the meeting, agreed at a summit in Austria in June as part of a drive to combat global warming and other threats.

They agreed to promote technologies to capture and bury greenhouse gases from coal, to boost energy efficiency and renewable fuels, to set common standards for biofuels, protect the diversity of species on Earth and help developing nations.

However, they side-stepped rifts over the Kyoto Protocol, the UN plan for capping emissions of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels that are widely blamed for global warming. The EU backs Kyoto but President George W Bush opposes it.

''You can have Kyoto and non-Kyoto members working together,'' said Paula Dobriansky, US under secretary of state for democracy and global affairs. She told a news conference that both sides had ''many common goals'' in cutting greenhouse gases.

PRACTICAL IDEAS Finland's Environment Minister Jan-Erik Enestam said the talks came up with ''many practical ideas'' about clean energy technologies. He said there were opportunities for ''bringing the world's two largest markets together in this respect''.

Kyoto's caps are embraced by the EU as a first step to slow warming that might otherwise cause disastrous changes to the climate, leading to floods and desertification, and raising world sea levels by up almost a metre (three feet) by 2100.

Bush pulled the United States out of Kyoto in 2001, saying its mandatory caps would damage the US economy and was unfair for leaving developing nations out of a first period to 2012. He has set less stringent, voluntary goals for curbing a rise in emissions.

Enestam rejected suggestions that Kyoto would damage the EU economy, saying it would instead herald ''new opportunities in producing new technologies and also selling them worldwide''.

James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said cleaner coal was among the main areas of potential transatlantic environmental cooperation.

''Coal is one of the biggest challenges because it's the area where we need some of the most significant investments and technological applications,'' he said.

Capturing and burying carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, from a coal-fired power plant now costs a prohibitive 0 a tonne.

''There technology in Europe and there's technology in the United States...It requires a concerted effort,'' he said.

He also said that the two sides needed joint standards on new biofuels, produced from crops such as corn and sugar. A new generation of fuels includes biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol.

''It's very important for us to come to agreement on the basic standards for those fuel grades so that manufacturers can produce vehicles and engines that can use the fuel globally,'' he said.


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