BANFF, Alberta (Reuters) - The divisions between the world's leading nations over the Kyoto protocol on global warming deepened dramatically on Sunday, when an informal discussion on climate change ended in disarray with both the United States and Canada looking increasingly isolated.
Washington has been relentlessly attacked since abandoning Kyoto last year but after environment ministers from the Group of Eight leading nations ended their 45-minute meeting it was clear European leaders were fast losing patience with Canada's dithering over whether to ratify the accord.
Ottawa, which is under heavy pressure from energy producers and several powerful provinces to follow the U.S. lead and ditch Kyoto, has abandoned all talk of ratification this year and is calling for more nationwide consultations.
Crucially, it also wants to be given more credit for exporting clean energy to the United States as a way of meeting its Kyoto target for cutting emissions of the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.
But both the European Union and individual European nations -- who have been politely predicting Canada would ratify Kyoto soon -- said the idea of clean energy credits would wreck the protocol and harshly made their displeasure known.
"My initial reaction is that if Canada now comes back to say we have to reopen all the negotiations because we have seen the costs are high -- that is not unique for Canada," said Margot Wallstrom, the environment commissioner for the 15-nation European Union.
"We think this proposal...would actually completely change the whole structure and architecture of the Kyoto protocol and this is simply not acceptable to us," she told the closing news conference after two days of talks as Canadian Environment Minister David Anderson fumed in silence.
The European Union is especially unhappy about the Canadian idea, given that Kyoto has already been changed once to give Canada credit for the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by its large forests.
But Anderson made clear that Ottawa would press ahead with plans to formally present the clean energy proposal at a meeting in Canada next month, saying he was not convinced by what the critics had to say.
And he lost his temper when pressed repeatedly on Kyoto, pointing out that the G8 ministers' meeting in the Rocky Mountain resort town of Banff had formally been working on the agenda for a major conference on sustainable development in Johannesburg this August.
"A child dies every 10 seconds, every 10 seconds. Think how many children have died since we began this press conference and then say to me 'Keep talking about only one subject, only one subject, only one subject and ignore everything else, including those children who are dying'," he snapped.
The meeting was clearly something of a disaster for Anderson, who lost another battle when G8 delegates overrode Canadian objections and insisted there should be specific mention of Kyoto ratification in the final protocol.
"They basically tried to duck the issue, they tried to keep it off the agenda. Well, they failed," said Benedict Southworth, the climate change director of Greenpeace.
"Fortunately the more progressive elements of the G8 have said 'No, you are going to talk about Kyoto. We are going to keep on track'."
Some delegates said they suspected that Canada might even be tempted to abandon Kyoto altogether over clean energy export credits, a concept which attracted a steady drumbeat of disapproval during the day.
"It is obvious that this is not an idea that has been thought through to its real final consequences," German Environment Minister Juergen Trittin told reporters.
Despite Canada's noted recent softening of its pro-Kyoto stance, Anderson angrily insisted that "There has be no, no, no change of position of the federal government of Canada" and proceeded to accuse journalists of misquoting him.
Although the G8 ministers put less pressure than usual on Christine Todd Whitman (news - web sites), the much-criticized head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (news - web sites), they made clear that President George W. Bush (news - web sites)'s proposal to introduce voluntary guidelines for emissions reductions were inadequate.
"We don't think what the United States is doing is enough. It will be very little more than business as usual and allow emissions to rise more than 30 percent," said Wallstrom.
"The basic problem is of course that the United States has chosen to stand outside the Kyoto protocol. I hope we will be able one day to convince them to come back into this process."
The G8 comprises Canada, Britain, the United States, Japan, Italy, Germany, France and Russia.
(With additional reporting by Jeffrey Jones in Banff)
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