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G-8 environment summit continues in Trieste

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March 4, 2001 


TRIESTE, Italy- (AP) - As talks at a G-8 ummit on environmental issues focused Saturday on how to cut gas emissions into the atmosphere, Italy's environment minister vowed there will be "no backtracking" in the fight against climate warming.

While top delegates from the world's seven most industrialized countries plus Russia met, thousands of policemen and paramilitary Carabinieri in anti-riot gear cordoned off the center of this Adriatic port city under a pouring rain, ahead of a demonstration by environmental groups which was scheduled for later in the day.

Others were planned for Sunday, when the summit ends.

"No negative message will be sent out from Trieste. There will be no backtracking, no steps back," said Italian Environment Minister Willer Bordon.

Bordon said that a climate conference planned in Bonn in July should be considered a continuation of last year's climate talks at The Hague, when an agreement on how to implement the 1997 Kyoto accord to reduce greenhouse gases proved elusive.

"We should say The Hague was suspended, rather than saying it was a failure," Bordon told reporters.

Gas emissions, trapping heat inside the earth's atmosphere, are widely blamed for pushing up temperatures, which experts say could rise by as much as 5.8 degrees Celsius (10.5 degrees Fahrenheit) over the next century.

Other topics on the agenda included sustainable development and health.

The meeting, which started late Friday, drew officials from Italy, the United States, Canada, Germany, France, Japan, Russia and Britain. Representatives of the European Commission were also attending.

The summit also represented the first international stage for Christie Whitman, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief, and a chance to reveal what environmental policy the new White House administration might develop.

Whitman made no comments to reporters as she arrived for Saturday's session.

Bordon would only say her contribution to the summit was "very positive."

According to a WWF official in Trieste, uncertainty over the U.S. position might slow down negotiations over gas emission cuts.

"The United States has to take a position over the Kyoto protocol," Jennifer Morgan, the director of World Wildlife Fund Climate Change Campaign, said in an interview. "They have to make up their mind very soon because countries can't negotiate with someone who doesn't have a position."

Whitman's remarks so far "have shown that (U.S. President George W.) Bush thinks that global warming is a real problem and plans on doing something," Morgan said.

The conclusions of this meeting will be discussed when G-8 heads of state and government meet at their July 20-22 summit in the Italian port city of Genoa.

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