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Gore's Visit to Climate Meeting Brings Reaction But Little Action

By Kevin Sullivan
and Joby Warrick
The Washington Post
KYOTO, Japan

Vice President Al Gore's planned one-day whirl through the global climate conference cheered some people and enraged others, but left most confused about his message and whether it will have any significant impact on the remaining 48 hours of negotiation on a treaty to combat global warming.

By the time a visibly jet-lagged Gore headed for the airport Monday night, a top European Union official had rebuked him harshly, Congressional republicans had lambasted him, China ignored him and a deeply divided array of environmental activists was left wondering whether their long-time ally had helped or hindered the complex negotiations.

"Al Gore flew all this way and we see no change at all in the U.S. position," said Greenpeace spokesman Gary Cook, one of a small group of environmental activists who met privately with Gore Monday night. "He raised a lot of hopes, but so far there's been no action."

In a speech Monday morning, Gore promised more "flexibility" from U.S. negotiators, but he did not offer specifics. After nonstop meetings with officials from the EU, Japan and developing nations, and with environmentalists, industry representatives and journalists, Gore offered little information about what flexibility he had in mind.

"We have no numbers, no text," said Pierre Gramegna of Luxembourg, a key official in the EU delegation that has proposed the deepest cuts in emissions of the greenhouse gases that scientists say cause global warming.

The harshest criticism of the vice president came from EU Environment Minister Ritt Bjerregaard, who said Gore's statement amounted to "virtual reality": promising rhetoric filled with "dangerous loopholes."

"We in the EU are disappointed the rhetoric was not met by the reality," she said. "We must agree now - before it is too late - on early and significant reductions of emissions or face the disastrous consequences of global warming."

Still, even EU members said they were willing to give U.S. negotiators a chance to flesh out Gore's rhetoric, reflecting the confusion caused by his visit and the deep desire to see a treaty signed this week