US 'blocks environment progress'

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Germany's environment minister, Sigmar Gabriel, says the United States has blocked progress on two key issues to protect the global environment.

He was speaking after a two-day meeting of environment ministers in the German city of Potsdam.

The issues were carbon emissions trading and rewarding developing nations for protecting their natural assets, he said.

Mr Gabriel said the US opposition was "not a surprise".

The Potsdam conference brought together ministers from the Group of Eight leading industrialised nations - the United States, Canada, France, UK, Germany, Japan, Italy and Russia - and Brazil, India, China Mexico and South Africa from the developing world.

'Not subtle'

Ministers stressed that the meeting had shown that there was a good deal of consensus on the scale and nature of the problem of climate change - but a lack of agreement on the tools to tackle it.

The BBC's Matt McGrath in Potsdam says there was a widespread acceptance that sustainable economic development had to go hand in hand with efforts to cut emissions of carbon dioxide.

But disagreements surfaced over specifics such as extending the global system of carbon trading, one of the central planks of any proposed deal to curb emissions.

According to one delegate the United States was "not subtle" in its opposition to carbon trading, and to another proposal that would pay developing countries to preserve rainforests.

"We find this regrettable," Mr Gabriel told reporters.

But he said: "I would have been disappointed if I'd expected something different."