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UN climate chief slams "disastrous" plan

AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands -- The head of the U.N. forum on climate change has dubbed President Bush's new energy plan a "disastrous development" for international efforts to slow the output of global warming gases.

Jan Pronk, who is also the Dutch environment minister, told a Dutch television news program the Bush plan would "undoubtedly" lead to increased output of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, although he still awaited proposals from the world's biggest polluter on how to cut emissions.

In a speech earlier Thursday, Bush called for increasing U.S. reliance on oil, coal and nuclear power, while offering $10 billion in tax credits for conservation measures.

"In terms of the possibility of forming an integrated policy (to cut emissions), this is a disastrous development," Pronk said.

A U.N. scientific body has said greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide produced by the burning of fossil fuels, will contribute to warming of the earth's surface. That in turn will lead to higher ocean levels, dramatic changes in weather patterns and greater frequency of severe storms.

In March, Bush drew an international outcry by rejecting the Kyoto Protocol, which calls on industrialized countries to cut output of carbon dioxide by an average of 5.2 percent from 1990 levels by 2010.

Bush said he rejected the pact, which has not been formally adopted by the international community, because it did not require emissions cuts by developing nations and would damage the U.S. economy.

Pronk reiterated earlier statements that he would press other countries to move forward with the Kyoto pact without the United States, but hoped to draw the country back into the treaty at a later date.

"I'm trying now to keep the rest of the group together," he said.

Negotiations to add teeth to the Kyoto Protocol broke down in November in The Hague after the European Union balked at U.S. proposals to use forests and farms as "sinks" to soak up carbon from the atmosphere.

Kyoto talks to continue

Those talks are set to resume in Bonn, Germany, in July, although many countries are showing reluctance to join the pact without the United States.

Pronk said he would travel to Japan Saturday to try keep the U.S. negotiating partner in the talks on board.

"If that is successful, then we have a good basis for an agreement with Europe and Japan which can pull in other countries. But if that fails, then there isn't really any reason to start the Bonn conference," he said.

Pronk also took aim at the Bush administration's claim that cutting carbon dioxide emissions to slow global warming would be too expensive.

"The cost of prevention is much lower than the cost of the consequences from a worsening of the climate," he said.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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