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Chirac advocates new climate group

Published February 4, 2007


PARIS - Forty-five nations answered France's call Saturday for a new environmental body to slow global warming and protect the planet, perhaps with policing powers to punish violators.

Absent were the world's heavyweight polluter, the United States, and booming nations on the same path as the United States - China and India.

The charge led by French President Jacques Chirac came a day after the release of an authoritative scientific report in Paris that said global warming is "very likely" caused by mankind and that climate change will continue for centuries even if heat-trapping gases are reduced. It was the strongest language ever used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, whose last report was issued in 2001.

The document, a collaboration of hundreds of scientists and government officials, was approved by 113 nations, including the United States.

Despite the report's dire outlook, most scientists say the worst disasters - huge sea level rises and the most catastrophic storms and droughts - may be avoided if strong action is taken soon.

In his call to action at a French-sponsored environmental conference on Saturday, Chirac expressed frustration that "some large, rich countries still must be convinced." They are "refusing to accept the consequences of their acts," he said.

So far, it is mostly European nations that have agreed to pursue plans for the new organization, and to hold their first meeting in Morocco this spring.

Former Vice President Al Gore, whose Oscar-nominated documentary on global warming has garnered worldwide attention, cheered Chirac's efforts, speaking to the conference by videophone.

Many questions remain about the proposed new environmental body, including whether it would have the power to enforce global climate accords. Chirac's appeal says only that the group should "evaluate ecological damage" and "support the implementation of environmental decisions."

Many countries have failed to meet targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions laid out in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The United States never ratified the pact.

[Last modified February 4, 2007, 01:31:30]

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