The Heat Is Online

Bush Pulls U.S. Out of Kyoto Talks

Bush emissions policies upsetting allies abroad

US will skip talks on global warming
 
The Boston Globe, March 29, 2001

WASHINGTON - Taking fire from heads of state and environmental groups for pulling out of negotiations for a global warming treaty, President Bush faces an untimely meeting today with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, a vocal supporter of the treaty.

Bush opposes the pact because it does not also bind developing nations to curb ''greenhouse gas'' emissions and because he believes the costs outweigh the benefits. Bush said he is confident that close ties will continue with Germany, one of the most environmentally conscious countries in the world.

But the tension that now surrounds the visit underscores a growing reality for Bush: The environment is not just a matter of politics, but of international relations, and his recent moves are prompting many European officials to reassess the new American president.

In recent weeks, several heads of state have written to Bush officials about the US decision not to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, a step that instantly put longstanding global warming talks in jeopardy. Yesterday, the European Union environmental commissioner called Bush's decision this week to pull out of the negotiations ''very worrying.''

''This is one of those issues where they give him a bad mark,'' said Helmut Sonnenfeldt, guest scholar at the Brookings Institution and a specialist in European affairs. The net result of Bush's dealings with Europe so far has left the impression that he is ''hawkish, unilateralist, and maybe in some areas isolationist.''

Administration officials said such concerns are overblown, and that other, more pressing matters - such as international security - will take center stage during today's meeting with Schroeder.

''So far, at least in the context of German-American relations, it's a contained disagreement,'' a White House official said. ''There are issues that friends disagree on, and this is one of them.''

But Antony Blinken, a senior adviser on European affairs in the Clinton administration, said, ''it's an issue that Europeans feel very strongly about, particularly the Germans, so there's real concern. The problem the Europeans are having is that they are trying to figure out what the foreign policy is.''

On Tuesday, administration officials announced their intent to formally withdraw from the global warming treaty negotiated in Kyoto, Japan. Weeks earlier, Environmental Protection Agency administrator Christie Whitman promised European leaders at a G-8 meeting in Italy that the United States would meet the commitment to cutting greenhouse gases.
President Clinton signed the treaty in 1998, but the Senate voted 95-0 against ratifying it. Bush advisers raised that point repeatedly in defending their decision to back away from it, saying there would be no purpose in reaffirming a treaty that had no support in the Senate.

'Japan will be dismayed and deeply disappointed'' if the United States walks away from the treaty, said Japan's ambassador in charge of global environmental affairs, Kazuo Asakai. Thetreaty ''is very serious and important,'' he told the Washington Post.

''There's nothing to withdraw from,'' White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said, noting that no major industrialized nation has ratified the treaty. ''The treaty is not in effect.''

Fleischer pointed out that Bush has always said he opposed the Kyoto protocol because it is ''not in the economic interests of the United States.''

Still, the protocol for the treaty has been under discussion for several years, providing the groundwork for what European leaders hoped would eventually become an agreement with the United States on carbon dioxide emissions.

Yesterday, EU officials sounded stunned by the news that the United States would end its role in the effort, a move Europeans learned about through media reports. The decision, EU Commission spokeswoman Annika Ostergren said, had ramifications much more immediate than affecting the Earth's climate.

''Sometimes people think this is only about the environment, but it's also about international relations and economic cooperation,'' she told Reuters. ''The EU is willing to discuss details and problems, but not to scrap the whole protocol.''

By not warning the Europeans about his decision, Bush has spent some of his political capital, several European affairs specialists said, which could in turn affect his chances of persuading countries to support his policies on a US missile shield or in the Balkans.

Democrats called the situation critical, and accused Bush of embarrassing the United States. Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts said the series of choices Bush made in recent weeks ''cast a real chill on European perceptions of our American leadership.''

Yet, most foreign policy specialists said they did not expect to see any long-term division in the Atlantic alliance. And one White House official predicted that there would be no connection between the environmental matters and other issues important to US-European relations.

This story ran on page A01 of the Boston Globe on 3/29/2001.
© Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company.


US abandons Kyoto climate pact, a blow to Europe


Reuters News Service, March 29, 2001

WASHINGTON - The White House said yesterday the United States had effectively abandoned the 1997 Kyoto treaty to fight global warming, seen in Europe as central to U.S.-EU relations.

"The president has been unequivocal. He does not support the Kyoto treaty," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters. "It is not in the United States' economic best interest," he said.

Asked whether the United States would withdraw from the treaty, Fleischer said it had never come into force, meaning "there's nothing to withdraw from."

The European Union, which said last week the global warming was an integral part U.S.-EU relations, expressed concern over the Bush administration stance stance. Democrats and environmental groups denounced it.

"The new president came to town saying he would change the tone and change the climate in Washington; I guess we didn't realize it was the real climate he wanted to change," U.S. House Democratic leader Richard Gephardt of Missouri said at a news conference.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher later said the United States was not considering formally "unsigning" the treaty. "The administration clearly opposes the protocol ... What we are looking for is how to work with other governments to move forward on this," he said.

EUROPE WATCHING CLOSELY

The pact, signed by former President Bill Clinton in 1998 but never introduced in the Senate for ratification, aims to limit industrial-nation emissions of "greenhouse gases" thought to cause global warming.

Bush opposes the pact because it does not also bind developing nations to curb emissions and because he believes the costs outweigh the benefits, Fleischer said. He said Bush had ordered a Cabinet-level review of global warming issues to develop a U.S. response to the issue.

Earlier this month, the president broke a campaign promise by announcing he would not ask U.S. power plants to cut emissions of carbon dioxide, the gas that a great majority of scientists say is a key factor in the Earth's rising average temperatures.

Bush's carbon dioxide decision followed intense lobbying by coal and oil companies and congressional conservatives who opposed the proposal.

The White House comments yesterday came a day before Bush was to hold talks in Washington with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who asked Bush in a letter last week to abide by the agreement.

The European Union has also asked Bush to press ahead with the deal, saying a joint effort to fight global warming was "an integral part of relations" with the European Union.

EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom said in a statement, "It is very worrying if it is true that the U.S. intends to pull out of the Kyoto protocol." An EU spokeswoman said the United States had not yet replied to its request for high-level meetings to settle differences over the treaty.

Fleischer said only one of the 55 nations whose approval is required to put the treaty in effect - Romania - had so far acted to comply with the pact.

"It is a signal worldwide that others agree with the president's position on the treaty," he said.

He said the U.S. Senate had voted against ratifying the pact. He was referring to a nonbinding resolution, passed 95-0 before the Kyoto pact was reached, that said the Senate could not support any global warming pact that did not bind developing countries along with developed countries.

"The concern is that most of the world is exempt from the treaty and the treaty as it currently is written is not in the economic interests of the United States as well, because of the huge costs involved that are disproportionate to the benefits," he said.

The environmental group Friends of the Earth criticized the U.S. position as "environmental isolationism."

He (Bush) is systematically breaking his promises to the American public to protect the environment and keeping his promises to the wealthy polluters who put him in office," said organization spokesman Mark Helm.

REUTERS NEWS SERVICE


U.S. Aims to Pull Out of Warming Treaty
'No Interest' in Implementing Kyoto Pact, Whitman

 
The Washington Post, March 28, 2001

The White House recently sought advice from the State Department about how the United States can legally withdraw its signature from a landmark 1997 global warming agreement, signaling its intent to pull out despite efforts by European and Japanese leaders to try to keep the agreement alive, an administration source said yesterday.

The global warming treaty -- negotiated and signed in Kyoto, Japan -- marked the first time that the world's industrial nations committed to binding limits on the heat-trapping gases that scientists believe threaten catastrophic changes in the planet's climate. Under its terms, the United States would have to reduce its emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and certain other pollutants by 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.

However, the Senate has refused to ratify the treaty, and President Bush wrote to four conservative senators March 13 that he opposed the agreement because it exempts developing countries and would harm the U.S. economy.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman told reporters yesterday that the Kyoto protocol was dead as far as the administration was concerned and that if the Europeans and Japanese wanted to reach an agreement, they would have to abandon the outlines of the accord and take a different approach.

"No, we have no interest in implementing that treaty," Whitman said. "If there's a general agreement that we need to be addressing the global climate change issue, [the question is] how do we do it in a way that allows us to make some progress, instead of spending our time committed to something that isn't going to go."

The efforts by the administration to further distance the United States from the global warming accord seemed certain to stun European Union officials, who have been urging Bush to help restart stalled talks on implementing the agreement.
Whitman's comments angered environmental groups, which already are upset by Bush's decision March 13 to reverse himself on a campaign pledge to seek major reductions in U.S. power plant carbon dioxide emissions. Environmentalists and Democrats have condemned that decision as a major setback to efforts to combat global warming.

EU leaders sent Bush a letter last week saying that the United States and Europe "urgently needed" talks on a follow-up to last year's failed efforts in The Hague to try to reach accommodation on a global warming treaty. Until yesterday, Whitman had kept a dim hope alive that the administration might try to negotiate a deal this summer, despite Bush's opposition to the Kyoto protocol.

In light of Bush's March 13 letter, a White House official contacted the State Department inquiring what the administration was required to do to indicate that it would not ratify the Kyoto agreement, according to the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The White House was told that it could withdraw by having Secretary of State Colin L. Powell send a letter to the United Nations notifying it that the United States has no intention of ratifying the agreement, the source said.

A senior State Department official said last night that his department was asked to help determine "where do we go from here" as part of a review of the climate change accord. But the official insisted that how to "unsign" the Kyoto treaty "was not one of the questions tasked out under the review."

Whitman said that the president continues to believe global warming is a serious issue and that the administration will remain engaged in international negotiations on ways to address climate change.

Whitman noted that no other major industrial country has ratified the Kyoto agreement. "We are not the only ones who have problems with it," Whitman said.

The next round of Kyoto talks is slated for July in Bonn, where some expect the Bush administration to present alternatives.

A week before Bush decided he would not seek limits on carbon dioxide emissions by power plants, Whitman warned him in a memo that he must demonstrate his commitment to cutting greenhouse gases or risk undermining the United States' standing among its allies.

"Mr. President, this is a credibility issue for the U.S. in the international community. It is also an issue that is resonating here at home," she wrote in the March 6 memo. "We need to appear engaged."

Yesterday's developments angered environmental leaders, who in the immediate aftermath of Bush's inauguration in January had thought the administration might prove willing to take steps to address global warming. Industry groups that have long opposed the Kyoto protocol cheered the administration's steps.

Philip Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust, said the White House position dangerously erodes U.S. credibility in Europe. "The president has walked away from yet another campaign promise on global warming, and infuriated our allies in the process," he said. "Declaring the Kyoto negotiations dead rather than proposing changes which would make it acceptable will delay action on global warming for years and years."

Glenn F. Kelly, executive director of the Global Climate Coalition, an industry group, said, "One of the things the administration should be applauded for is early recognition that the Kyoto protocol is significantly flawed and that continuing to invest efforts and resources into fixing it will simply be futile."



US blow to Kyoto hopes
BBC News, March 28, 2001


Hopes that the world could agree a modest first step to tackle climate change have been dashed by the US.
A senior official says it will not implement the Kyoto Protocol, the international climate treaty.

The official, Christie Todd Whitman, head of the US Environmental Protection Agency, said the US would remain "engaged" with the issue.

But with Congress clearly refusing to ratify the protocol, she said, the US would not implement it. She told journalists: "We have no interest in implementing that treaty.

"If there's a general agreement that we need to be addressing the global climate change issue, how do we do it in a way that allows us to make some progress, instead of spending time committed to something that isn't going to go?"

Not alone

In a reference to the fact that no other industrialised country has yet ratified the protocol, Ms Whitman said: "We are not the only ones who have problems with it."

The Kyoto Protocol commits industrialised nations to cut their emissions of the main gases that some scientists claim are rapidly warming the planet - gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2).

By 2012, they would have to cut emissions by an average of 5.2% on their 1990 levels - a small reduction, but a hugely symbolic one.

The US would have to cut its emissions by 7%. It is responsible for about 25% of global emissions of CO2, the main "pollutant" covered by Kyoto, but argues that this is not unreasonable as it produces more wealth than any other country.

The protocol will enter into force only when 55% of the industrialised countries which have signed it have also ratified it.
Attempts to finalise the details of its workings collapsed at talks last November in The Hague. They are due to resume in the German city of Bonn in July.

No exemptions

Those who see Kyoto as an essential first step in confronting climate change say it should be ratified as soon as possible,
and certainly no later than the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, to be held in Johannesburg.

The fundamental objection of the US to the protocol is its concentration on emissions from industrialised countries, and its refusal at this stage to seek to limit pollution from developing nations.

Kyoto's supporters say this is entirely fair, because they argue that the problem has been caused by the rich world's profligate use of coal, oil and gas.

But the US and some other countries point out that the emissions of rapidly developing countries like India and China will soon be set to match their own.

They believe every country should be asked to share the burdens now. If the treaty were amended to do that, the Bush administration's objections would probably fall away.

The resumption of the stalled Hague talks in Bonn had been seen as perhaps the last realistic chance to secure the ratification of the treaty in time to allow most signatories to cut their emissions by the amounts they originally agreed.

Few options

But it is hard to see how Bonn can do anything to involve the Americans without a major rewrite of the protocol.
Failing that, it would be possible to ratify Kyoto without US involvement, if those ratifying it account for 55% of industrialised country emissions.

And the Americans could always come to Bonn with counter-proposals of their own.

But one unconfirmed report from Washington said a White House official had asked the State Department what it could do to pull out of the treaty.


U.S. Won't Follow Climate Treaty Provisions, Whitman Says

The New York Times, March 28, 2001

WASHINGTON, March 27 -- (AP) — The Bush administration has no plans to carry out the international climate treaty negotiated in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997, the chief of the Environmental Protection Agency said today, because it is clear that Congress will not ratify it anyway.

"We have no interest in implementing that treaty," the agency administrator, Christie Whitman, told reporters, although she said the president continued to believe that global warming was an issue of concern.

Mrs. Whitman said the administration would remain "engaged" in international negotiations on ways to address climate change. But it was unclear what position the administration intended to take to the next United Nations meeting on the Kyoto accords, scheduled for this summer.

Mrs. Whitman repeatedly noted that the Senate voted 95 to 0 against the United States' taking any action on climate change unless developing countries also took measures to reduce their emissions of heat-trapping gases. The main such gas, which many scientists link to global warming, is carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels.

The Kyoto agreement calls for industrial nations to reduce heat-trapping gases. The United States, for example, would be required to cut its emissions about a third by 2012.

Mr. Bush has on several occasions expressed opposition to the Kyoto agreement, which the Clinton administration had viewed as essential to dealing with the risks of climate change.

Mrs. Whitman noted that no other industrial country had ratified the agreement and added, "We are not the only ones who have problems with it."