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OPEC wants aid if world shifts to renewable energies

Row clouds last day of Kyoto climate talks

Row clouds last day of Kyoto climate talks

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MILAN, Italy (Reuters) -- A dispute over aid to OPEC states clouded the last day of a U.N. conference on global warming on Friday with the Kyoto protocol hanging by a thread amid uncertainties over Russian ratification.

Kyoto backers reaffirmed their support for the 1997 pact despite scant progress at the 12-day Milan talks on ways to fight rising temperatures blamed for more droughts, storms and for melting glaciers that may raise sea levels.

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, whose country holds the key to whether Kyoto enters into force, told Japanese media in an interview published on Friday that Moscow was preparing a "special action plan" to ratify it but gave no deadline for signing the pact.

Kyoto aims to cut rich countries' emissions of carbon dioxide by 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12.

Those in favor of Kyoto at the 180-nation talks welcomed his remarks, which follow a string of apparently contradictory statements from Moscow about the deal to rein in emissions from factories, cars and power plants blamed for global warming.

"The Kyoto protocol is the only game in town," German Environment Minister Juergen Trittin told a news conference, expressing confidence that Russia would ratify. The United States has called Kyoto fatally flawed and pulled out in 2001.

Delegates said that Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter, wanted promises of aid if Kyoto spurs a shift to renewable energies like tidal, solar or wind energy at the expense of fossil fuels.

But Trittin said that the European Union only wanted to help the poorest states adapt to climate change. "If such a fund is misused for targets we don't share, because it is a voluntary fund we won't pay," he said.

Countries led by the EU have promised about $410 million extra a year to help developing countries. A Special Climate Change Fund is likely to total about $50 million a year and would be bankrupted if it were to help OPEC states.

Environmentalists accused Washington of trying to torpedo the accord. "Kyoto is moving forward despite efforts by the Bush administration to undermine the process," Jennifer Morgan, director of the WWF climate change programme.

Steve Sawyer, climate policy chief of Greenpeace, said that Russia's choice on Kyoto would be a test of its role in the world after the September 11 attacks on the United States.

"Russia can either be seen as a force for multilateralism or can decide to go it alone and become a new rogue state like the United States," he said.

Trittin said that Kyoto would bring big foreign investments to Russia and spur its economy.

Russia told the talks on Thursday that hopes of big economic benefits were "illusory." It has also said that warmer weather might help extend farm areas north towards Siberia. Diplomats say Russia may want membership of the World Trade Organization as a price for ratification.

Without Russia, Kyoto will collapse because it needs backing by nations accounting for 55 percent of emissions of carbon dioxide to start. So far it has reached 44 percent and needs Russia's 17 in the absence of a U.S. stake of 36 percent.

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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