BANFF, Alberta (Reuters) - The Kyoto protocol will fall far short of its goals to cut greenhouse gases because of the pullout by the United States and possible foot dragging by Canada, but it is still a pact worth fighting for, a senior European Union official said.
"It is less effective. Of course it makes it a weaker protocol if the biggest emitter stays outside," Margot Wallstrom, the EU's environment commissioner, told Reuters after the first day of the Group of Eight environment ministers meeting being held in the heart of the Canadian Rockies.
"At the same time, I think that we will have to live with this issue of climate change for so long that the overall objective of getting an international framework, a start of international cooperation, on this issue is more important," Wallstrom said in an interview late Saturday.
She predicted the United States could eventually be brought back into the signatories of the 1997 accord. The 15 EU member states agreed in March to be legally bound by it.
Last year, President Bush pulled his country -- said to account for a third of the world's emissions of such greenhouse gases as carbon dioxide and methane -- out of the accord, saying that caps as spelled out in Kyoto would hurt the world's largest economy.
The United States will instead undertake a series of voluntary measures.
"I think that they are not at all enough. They are very little above 'business-as-usual' and it allows the emissions to grow by more than 30 percent," Wallstrom said. "So I think this is not at all satisfactory."
She said there was much tension between the EU and the United States over the issue. "But at the same time we are trying to identify areas where we can cooperate, where we can find constructive dialogue, and that includes working on science, completing the knowledge gaps that still exist."
To the outrage of environmental activists, the climate change issue is not on the official agenda of this weekend's G8 environment meeting in the resort town of Banff. The meeting is mostly concentrating on sustainable development issues.
But climate change looms large in the background and there is also criticism for Canada, this year's G8 host, which has yet to ratify the Kyoto protocol.
Wallstrom was adamant Canada should not be given credits for cleaner energy it exports to the United States in its efforts to meet emission targets, a position Canadian Environment Minister David Anderson has advocated.
"If they think that is the trick they are deeply mistaken -- that has to come out very clearly," she said, adding that Canada has already been granted concessions for so-called "carbon sinks," like forests and lakes.
"If they now come back and say they have a completely new proposal with a partner which is not in the Kyoto protocol, we simply don't accept this."
The G8 includes the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Italy, Germany, Japan and Russia.
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