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Swiss to push for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions

Global warming is thought to be behind the shrinking of the Bering glacier in Alaska


Swiss officials attending the world climate conference, which has opened in The Hague, intend to argue that industrialised countries must take the lead in reducing emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the gas responsible for global warming.

The Swiss delegation, led by the environment minister, Moritz Leuenberger, will urge the developed world to set the example.

From November 13 to 24, signatories to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change will meet to discuss ways of implementing the Kyoto Protocol. That agreement, signed in 1997, lays down targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions for industrialised countries by 2008-12.

Switzerland has committed itself to cutting emissions by eight per cent compared to 1990 figures.

The Swiss government said it would press in The Hague for a strict interpretation of the targets, as well as of the mechanisms agreed for achieving them.

One of the most controversial mechanisms is International Emission Trading, whereby countries can exchange emission reduction targets. Under this system, reductions in Indonesia paid for with Swiss money, for example, would be counted as part of Switzerland's reductions.

This is strongly supported by the United States, which argues that bigger cuts in greenhouse gas emissions can be achieved with less money in developing countries than in the developed world.

But the Swiss say they this option should only be used if it brings reductions beyond the commitments made in the protocol.

Switzerland will also call for a country's forests to be taken into account in calculations of CO2 reductions. It says deforestation is playing a significant role in the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

The government fears that without strict measures, the ecological, economic and social impact of climate change would be catastrophic.

It says scientists are warning that global temperatures could rise by 1.5 to 6 degrees on average by the end of the century. Sea levels would rise by up to 50 centimetres.

swissinfo with agencies

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