The Heat Is Online

Bush Reversal Outrages Europeans

EU says climate strategy "integral" to U.S. relations

Reuters News Service, March 23, 3001

The European Union has told President George W. Bush a global strategy to tackle climate change is an integral part of relations with the United States, the EU said on Friday.

In a letter to the White House, the EU stressed the importance it attaches to pushing ahead with a 1997 United Nations deal that commits developed countries to cut their "greenhouse gas" emissions blamed for causing global warming.

The letter was signed by European Commission President Romano Prodi and Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson, whose country currently holds the EU presidency.

The EU leaders challenged the United States to find the "political courage" to agree on the fine print of the deal struck in Kyoto, Japan, at last-ditch talks due to take place in Bonn in July.

"To the (European) Union an agreement at the resumed session (in Bonn) on the basis of the Kyoto Protocol and leading to real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions is of the utmost importance," the letter said.

"The global and long-term importance of climate change and the need for a joint effort by all industrialized countries in this field makes it an integral part of relations between the USA and the EU," it added.

The EU leaders asked Bush for a high-level dialogue with the United States to try to make progress before Bonn.

The last round of talks to finalize the rules for implementing the Kyoto deal, which requires richer countries to reduce their emissions of six gases — particularly carbon dioxide (CO2) — by an average of 5.2 percent by 2010, collapsed in November largely due to differences between the two blocs.

The EU insists that countries must make the majority of the cuts at home while the United States wants maximum flexibility to buy the right to pollute from other countries and claim credit for the carbon stored in forests.

Scientists believe the gases — mostly a result of burning fossil fuels — trap heat into the earth's atmosphere, contributing to global warming which could cause disastrous weather changes and floods over the next 100 years.

Concerns that Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney, both former oilmen, will reject the Kyoto deal have grown in the last two weeks.

Bush reversed a campaign pledge to include CO2 in new rules on power station emissions controls and Cheney told a U.S. television channel on Wednesday the White House did "not support the approach of the Kyoto treaty."

Prodi and Persson told Bush they understood the challenges posed by reducing greenhouse gases, but said there would also be economic benefits in moving away from fossil fuels towards renewable sources of energy.

"Since a reduction in our dependency on fossil fuels goes straight to the heart of the functioning of our industrial societies, there is no doubt that this transformation will be difficult to achieve."

"It will require a vision, political courage, and an extraordinary effort of international cooperation," the letter said.

Bush Needs Political Courage on Climate Change: EU

BRUSSELS, Belgium, March 26, 2001 (ENS) - The European Union has written to United States President George W. Bush, insisting that the U.S. commit to combating climate change. The letter calls on the U.S. to find the "political courage" to finalize the small print of the Kyoto Protocol.

"The global and long term importance of climate change and the need for a joint effort by all industrialized countries in this field makes it an integral part of relations between the U.S. and the European Union," said the letter, which was signed by European Commission President Romano Prodi and Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson.

The 15 country European Union and the U.S. have long differed over how to tackle climate change. Neither side can agree on how countries should be allowed to meet targets for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions established under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

Under the Protocol, 39 industrialized nations must cut emissions of six greenhouse gases to an average of 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by the period 2008-2012. The Protocol will not take effect until it is ratified by 55 percent of the nations emitting at least 55 percent of the six greenhouse gases. The gases are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride.

Recently though, President Bush has questioned the science behind climate change forecasts, prompting fears that the U.S. no longer supports the Kyoto Protocol or intends living up to the targets agreed upon four years ago.

On March 13, Bush reversed a pledge to legislate limits on C02 emissions from U.S. power plants, saying such a rule would be too costly, in light of rising energy prices. In a speech last September, Bush vowed to require limits on C02 emissions, along with other power plant pollutants including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury.

Last week, Vice President Dick Cheney told U.S. television viewers that the White House did "not support the approach of the Kyoto treaty." Both Bush and Cheney are former oilmen who have been criticized by environmental groups for pledging to open the North Slope of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration.

Bush said earlier this month that other public lands, protected as national monuments, could be opened to oil and gas exploration. "There's a mentality that says you can't explore and protect land," Bush said at a media roundtable. "We're going to change that attitude."

The European Union is concerned that the rift between both sides could be widened at a time when the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is projecting ever more dire warnings about climate change.

In January, the IPCC said that the Earth's average surface temperature could increase by five degrees Celsius (10.4 degrees Fahrenheit) over the next century, with catastrophic results: melted glaciers, flooded shorelines and persistent drought.

Greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning in electricity generation and from agriculture and transportation are thought by many scientists to have reached levels that require precautionary and prompt action.

Talks in The Hague, Netherlands last November were supposed to finalize agreement on how Kyoto's targets could be met. Those talks, officially known as the sixth Conference of Parties (COP 6) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), finished without agreement.

The European Union leads those countries who argue that so called flexible mechanisms should not come at the expense of real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions at home. In other words, avoid creating loopholes that allow some countries to sidestep real domestic action.

The U.S., Canada, Japan and Australia want the flexibility to buy the right to pollute from other countries and claim credit for carbon stored in forests.

Flexible mechanisms such as carbon sequestration and emissions trading were designed to make it easier for countries to meet their targets under the Kyoto Protocol.

The European Union wants at least 50 percent of countries' emission reduction commitments to be met through domestic action, a view opposed by the U.S., Canada, Japan and Australia. If countries fail to live up to their Kyoto commitments or the Protocol's rules, they should face tough penalties, says the European Union, including exclusion from flexible mechanisms.

Officials from more than 160 governments will reconvene in Bonn, Germany, from July 16 to 27, to continue talks. In their letter to Bush, Prodi and Persson requested high level dialogue with the U.S. to try and make progress before the summer summit.

"To the European Union, an agreement at the resumed session on the basis of the Kyoto Protocol and leading to real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions is of the utmost importance," said the letter.

Without U.S. agreement, any climate change strategy would be severely weakened. With four percent of the world's population, the U.S. produces more than 25 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.

"Since a reduction in our dependency on fossil fuels goes straight to the heart of the functioning of our industrial societies, there is no doubt that this transformation will be difficult to achieve," said today's letter.

"It will require a vision, political courage, and an extraordinary effort of international cooperation."

Environmental group Greenpeace International welcomed the European Union's initiative. "This letter signed at the highest level of the European Union hierarchy gives a strong political signal to Mr. Bush that he must not obstruct the international negotiation on climate change," said Michel Raquet, Greenpeace climate advisor.

"The message is crystal clear: President Bush should take his ostrich head out of the sand."

"The scientific evidence of climate change does not permit any one of us, especially the world's biggest polluter - the U.S. - to waste time in delaying action," added Raquet.

Greenpeace called upon the European Council - the government leaders of all 15 EU member states - to adopt a Declaration demanding that Bush stop opposing the Kyoto Protocol and positively engage with the resumed COP 6 negotiations.

At its first annual meeting in Stockholm, Sweden, last weekend, the European Council issued the following statement:

"The European Council, recognizing climate change as a global threat to future well being and economic progress, recalls the necessity of efficient international action to reduce emissions. "It reaffirms its strong commitment to the Kyoto Protocol as the basis for such action and expresses its deep concern at the fact that this Protocol is being called into question.

"The European Council urges all its negotiation partners to engage constructively in reaching agreement on modalities for implementing the Kyoto Protocol and to facilitate a successful outcome of the resumed COP 6, which will create the conditions for ratification and entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol by 2002."

Next year marks the 10th anniversary of the United Nations Climate Change Convention in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which set the stage for the Kyoto Protocol.

Europe Spooked by Bush's U-Turn on CO2 Limits

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, March 16, 2001 (ENS) - U.S. President George W. Bush has spread gloom through Europe's climate change community by abandoning an election campaign promise to limit the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fueled utilities and reiterating his opposition to the United Nations Kyoto Protocol.

The President's change of heart on power plants and CO2 is revealed in a letter this week to four congressmen. Carbon dioxide should not be controlled under a draft law aimed at cutting emissions of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury, Bush writes, because it is not defined as a pollutant under the U.S. Clean Air Act.

Furthermore, Bush writes, utilities would increase prices "at a time of rising energy prices and a serious energy shortage."

"Without U.S. leadership, effective global action on climate change may not be possible," said Klaus Toepfer, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on Thursday. "The United States of America has much to gain from leading the way into the new low emissions economy of the 21st century," he said.

Toepfer, a former German environment minister, was speaking in Copenhagen after discussing climate change issues with Svend Auken, Denmark’s minister of the environment, who shares the concern of UNEP over the lack of U.S. leadership. Toepfer is in Denmark to celebrate the 10th anniversary of UNEP’s collaborating center on energy and the environment.

Talks on the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement that would limit emissions of CO2 and five other greenhouse gases linked to global warming, broke down in November, in the last months of the administration of U.S. President Bill Clinton.

The Clinton administration had been working with the international community to find ways of cutting emissions without damaging industrial productivity such as development of renewable energy technologies.

President Bush, a former oilman, took office January 20, promising to reassess all of the Clinton administration's climate policies.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, 39 industrialized nations agreed to cut their emissions of six greenhouse gases linked to global warming. They must reduce emissions to an average of 5.2 percent below 1990 levels during the five year period 2008 to 2012.

The emissions of developing nations will be controlled by subsequent negotiations under the climate treaty.

The Kyoto Protocol has been signed by the United States and most other nations, but it will not take effect until it is ratified by 55 percent of the nations emitting at least 55 percent of the six greenhouse gases.

Since the United States emits roughly one-quarter of all greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere, ratification by the United States is considered essential to entry into force of the protocol.

International negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol as scheduled to resume in July in Bonn, Germany.

Toepfer said, "We know that the U.S. is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases and is therefore an important part of the problem. But the U.S. is also our best hope for a solution.

Simply put, the U.S. is the world’s most technologically innovative country. Its industries are most likely to develop the climate friendly products and services that must one day soon set the world onto a clean energy path," he said.

The European Union's Swedish Presidency expressed "deep concern" over Bush's stated "doubts about the Kyoto protocol." It welcomed the president's commitment stated in his letter to the congressmen to "work with friends and allies" to "address climate change." But the Swedish presidency said the European Union wished to "underline very strongly that cooperation ... must be based on a legally binding document."

Three reports issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) this year and adopted by represtatives of 100 governments have confirmed that global warming is occurring more rapidly than previously predicted with consequences such as extreme weather events, sea level rise, coastal flooding and spread of tropical diseases to temperate latitudes that will affect the entire world, including the United States.

A study released Thursday by a team of physicists from the Imperial College, London, confirms the reality of global warming by comparing satellite data over a 27 year period.

"While developing countries are at greatest risk," Toepfer said, "climate change will also pose challenges for rich countries such as Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. In North America, the IPCC projects increasing frequency, severity and duration of weather disasters including floods, droughts, storms and landslides."

"In all sectors," Toepfer warned, "water, health, food, energy, insurance, governments and human settlements, the risk exists that impacts of climate change will overstress existing institutional structures and engineered systems designed for a more stable world."

{ENDS Environment Daily contributed to this report. Environmental Data Services Ltd, London}

German minister concerned at US CO2 stance

Reuters News Service, March 20, 2001

BERLIN - German Environment Minister Juergen Trittin has expressed concern to U.S. authorities over U.S. President George W. Bush's decision to exclude carbon dioxide from new pollution controls.


In a letter to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief Christine Whitman obtained by Reuters on Sunday, Trittin said he feared it could undermine the 1997 Kyoto accord to cut emissions of the "greenhouse gases" blamed for heating up the planet.

"I am deeply concerned about the recently published letter from President Bush to (Nebraska Republican) Senator (Chuck) Hagel in which he not only distanced himself from planned national measures to reduce CO2 emissions but also expressed fundamental doubts about the Kyoto protocol," Trittin wrote.

"The Kyoto protocol must not be jeopardised," Trittin, a member of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's ecologist Greens junior coalition partners, added in the letter to the EPA, which has powers to set environmental regulations in the United States.

Germany is hosting a new United Nations-backed bid in Bonn this summer to reach agreement on how the Kyoto protocol can be implemented. Previous attempts have failed amid acrimony, particularly between the United States and Europe.

In a letter to a Republican senator published last Tuesday, Bush said he would not be enforcing CO2 cuts on electrical power plants, saying mandatory emission controls would force U.S. electricity prices even higher than they are at the moment.

Germany committed itself to one of the most ambitious targets under the Kyoto Protocol, which the United States has not so far ratified, pledging to reduce CO2 emissions by 25 percent of 1990 levels by 2005.


REUTERS NEWS SERVICE