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US wants Europe to bear brunt of fuel cuts

THE US, Japan and Australia raised the temperature at the world climate conference in Kyoto yesterday when suggesting that European states should bear the brunt of cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases.

Europe wants all industrialised nations to reduce carbon dioxide discharges by 15pc by 2010. But the way it plans to meet this high target came under fire from Japan, which said it was unfair and possibly illegal.

Under the scheme, dubbed the European Union `bubble', less developed member states such as Greece and Portugal would be allowed to increase their emissions over the coming years by up to 40pc.

The increases would be offset by deeper cuts by the more developed northern member states such as Germany, Britain and Luxembourg. They would reduce emissions by up to 40pc so that Europe as a whole achieves its 15pc goal.

Japan said that if Europe stuck to its plan for the industrialised world, it should take on higher targets than rival economies. Toshiaki Tanabe, Tokyo's Ambassador for Global Affairs, said: ``Some countries in the EU will have a heavy burden but others do not have to bear such a large burden. Acting together, Europe will achieve greater advantages.''

He suggested that Japan would be at an economic disadvantage to countries such as Spain, and especially France which, by claiming its emissions are already low because of its big nuclear industry, enjoys a zero reduction target under the `bubble'.

Under the Japanese proposal, whatever is agreed in Kyoto next week could force Europe to carry out much deeper emission cuts than America, Japan and the rest of the industrialised world.

Melinda Kimble, the United States Secretary for Global Affairs, said yesterday that a European-style arrangement was not open to America and other big industrialised countries. Europe saw itself as a single economic entity as it moved closer to economic and monetary union, while Washington took the view that Europe remained `15 sovereign states'.

A dismayed Pierre Gramegna, Luxembourg's Ambassador to Japan and a leading EU negotiator, said: ``We do not understand why the host country is leading this offensive rather than being an honest broker.''

Environmental groups said it was no coincidence that the attack on Europe came from countries whose own proposals for the industrialised world were far more modest. Japan says it can only take cutbacks of 5pc; America wants no cuts at all, claiming it will wreck its economy; and Australia says it should be allowed to let its emissions increase by 18pc by 2010.

(The Times, London)

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