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Swiss seek way out of deadlock at climate conference

Greenpeace activists unfurl a banner outside the Hague conference, which reads: "Don't let us drown"


Switzerland has indicated that it is prepared to soften its position to break the deadlock on curbing global warming at the United Nations climate conference in The Hague.

The head of the Swiss delegation, Philippe Roch, said he might be willing to support a compromise proposal put forward by the conference president, Dutch environment minister, Jan Pronk.

The conference is deadlocked because United States and European negotiators have been unable to agree a joint position on how to reduce emissions, despite nearly five days of talks.

In a bid to salvage the 1997 Kyoto Protocol - which obliges industrialised countries to cut emissions by five per cent over 1990 levels by 2010 - Pronk has called on both sides to soften their positions.

The US argues that its forests act as carbon "sinks" - by absorbing carbon dioxide - hence reducing its need to cut emissions. European countries dismiss this as a ploy by Washington to shirk its responsibilities for cutting factory and vehicle emissions.

The US is also in favour of "emissions trading", which would allow it to buy "carbon credits" from low-polluting nations and count these as part of its emission-cutting quota. European countries support only limited use of such credits.

To win over the US, Pronk has proposed that countries be allowed to use "carbon sinks" to offset up to three per cent of their emissions quotas.

He has also suggested that industrialised nations "meet their emissions targets primarily through domestic action", which would appear to meet Europe's objections to widespread emissions trading.

swissinfo with agencies

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