The European Union sought on Monday to defuse discord with the United States over greenhouse gas emissions as world ministers were due to join a UN meeting on climate change Tuesday.
EU representatives said they would not insist on precise limits for greenhouse gas emissions in talks with the United States, which rejected the Kyoto protocol on climate change over its opposition to specific targets.
"The US does not have to fear that we want to come the next day and say, now you take on Kyoto targets," Sarah Hendry, head of the British delegation, told reporters.
"There is concern on the part of the US that we are jumping straight into negotiations," said Hendry, whose government currently holds the rotating EU presidency. But she said the talks were only a starting point.
Signed by 34 governments, the Kyoto protocol requires countries to cut gases that cause global warming. The protocol became fully operational Wednesday after the UN Climate Change Conference adopted final rules by consensus.
With the Kyoto protocol due to expire in 2012, the Montreal conference is trying to set out preliminary plans to further cut emissions when the accord ends.
EU ministers hope to pursue follow-up arrangements with signatory countries while also opening up sensitive talks with governments that rejected Kyoto, including major polluters such as the United States.
The United States, which emits 25 percent of the world's so-called greenhouse gases, made clear last week that it opposed any talk of extending Kyoto-style limits on their emission.
Since 2002, the administration of President George W. Bush said it has embarked on a voluntary policy to reduce US emissions by 18 percent by relying on new technology and without harming the US economy.
The Kyoto treaty called for reductions in emissions of six percent from 1990 levels but the US argued the limits apply more stringently to developed countries than to developing ones.
Environmental activists criticized the conciliatory EU approach, saying European states should instead assert leadership over the issue and not allow Washington to set the agenda.
The European Union "appears to be working on the basis of a major strategic mistake" by moving to accommodate the US government, said Tony Jupiter, director of Friends of the Earth. The European Union needed to be "taking the lead," Jupiter said.
Global warming is accelerating and the environmental and economic effects could be disastrous if governments fail to act, activists said.
Concrete limits needed to be agreed well before the Kyoto protocol expired in 2012, said Jennifer Morgan from the World Wide Fund for Nature.
"We want a clear, independent process to negotiate the post-2012 framework under the Kyoto protocol. We want this by 2008," Morgan said.
US environmental groups opposed to the Bush administration's stance presented the US consulate here on Saturday with 600,000 signatures on a petition seeking action on global warming, organizers said.
Some 10,000 delegates and members of environmental groups are meeting here for the conference, which runs through December 9.
So-called greenhouse gases, notably carbon dioxide, which is generated by burning of fossil fuels like gas, oil and coal, enlarge an atmospheric layer that blocks radiant heat from escaping Earth into space.
Scientists worry that the resulting increased temperatures are melting polar ice caps and heating tropical seas, with unknown and possibly disastrous consequences for Earth's weather, flora and fauna.All rights reserved. © 2005 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.