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The United States said yesterday (15 February) that it would spend US$5 billion this year on research into climate change and technologies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

The announcement came on the eve of today's (16 February) entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, whose biggest critic is the United States.

The protocol obliges industrialised countries to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to five per cent below 1990 levels by 2008-2012. Among these nations, only Australia and the United States have not ratified the protocol.

Their objections include that it does not require that countries with rapidly growing economies and greenhouse gas emissions, such as China and India, reduce their emissions.

The United States maintains, however, that it is committed to addressing global climate change, and announced yesterday that would invest US$5.8 billion in 2005 on research and other initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Of this, about US$2 billion will be spent on scientific research into climate change. Nearly US$3 billion will be used to research, develop and deploy technologies that can reduce greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.

Among these are nuclear power, hydrogen-based power, and ways of storing industrially produced carbon dioxide instead of releasing it to the atmosphere.

"While the United States and countries with binding emissions restrictions under the Kyoto Protocol are taking different paths, our destination is the same, and compatible with other efforts," said US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher in a statement on Monday (14 February).

Although the United States is determined to pursue a different approach to climate change than that taken by the 141 countries that have ratified the Kyoto Protocol, efforts are underway to lure the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases back to the negotiating table.

UK prime minister Tony Blair said in a interview on British television this morning (16 February) that he would try, later this year, to bring the United States, China and India into the global dialogue on climate change.

"If we manage that," he said, "I think we will get back on the right track."

Blair was referring to the forthcoming summit of leaders of the 'G8' group of most industrialised nations, which will take place in Scotland, United Kingdom, in July.

The United Kingdom plans to invite Brazil, China, India and South Africa to the meeting (see Britain and India to collaborate on climate research).

Read more about climate change in SciDev.Net's Climate change dossier.