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Saturday November 25 6:58 AM ET

U.N. Climate Talks Collapse on US-EU Dispute

By Matt Daily

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - U.N. climate talks collapsed at the 11th hour on Saturday after the European Union (news - web sites) and the United States failed to settle a bitter row over ways to stop global warming.

Environmentalists called the dramatic result at a U.N. climate conference in The Hague a disaster for efforts to clean up the planet's atmosphere and protect poorer nations from devastating storms and floods.

British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott stormed out the talks amid chaotic scenes, saying major players had been unable to make the compromises required by a 1600 GMT deadline to clinch a deal on practical steps to stop climate change.

``There isn't a deal. That's unfortunate,'' he told reporters as he strode out of the negotiations.

``We came so close. We couldn't get an agreement. I'm gutted. We wanted a deal, but that's life.''

The conference had tried to agree steps to implement a pact agreed in Kyoto, Japan, which called for a five percent average cut in developed nations' 1990 levels of emissions by 2010.

``The world needs Kyoto,'' said Prescott. ``It needs a deal and people have got to keep on doing everything they can to get it.''

An EU source said the deadlock had forced the suspension of the negotiations, adding that efforts to get an agreement would be made at a meeting in May.

Poor nations and green groups had warned of environmental catastrophe if the talks among 180 countries failed to forge the first concrete steps against climate change believed to be behind major floods and storms that ravaged some Asian nations and parts of Australia this week.

``This meeting will be remembered as the moment when governments abandoned the promise of global cooperation to protect Planet Earth,'' said Greenpeace.

``It's a tragedy that they didn't give it one more push...'' said Alden Meyer of the U.S. Union of Concerned Scientists.

``The EU is going to face a very different negotiating partner if it's a Bush administration,'' he said, referring to the unresolved U.S. presidential race between Republican George Bush (news - web sites) and Democrat Al Gore (news - web sites).

A conservative business lobby opposed to the Kyoto protocol on the grounds that it would cost American jobs said the collapse proved the pact was a mistake in the first place.

``This is the ultimate result of having negotiated a flawed treaty,'' said the Global Climate Coalition business group, a coalition backed by some big U.S. oil companies.

-- Malcolm Taylor (, November 25, 2000

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