The Independent, (UK) May 14, 2002
The United States has in effect ruled out any possibility of taking part in the Kyoto treaty to reduce greenhouse gases for at least another 10 years, its senior climate negotiator said yesterday.
Even though the Kyoto agreement is due to be renegotiated in 2005, America will take no part in those talks and is unlikely to have anything to do with the treaty before 2012, said Harlan Watson, one of President George Bush's most trusted advisers.
Dr Watson, who is in London to attend a government conference on the environment, said that America intended to go its own way in curbing its greenhouse gas emissions in a manner that would not jeopardise the country's jobs or its economy.
"Kyoto would have hammered our economy and put millions of Americans out of work and undermined our ability to make long-term investments in cleaner energy," Dr Watson said.
In a conciliatory gesture, Dr Watson said that the American government agreed with the US National Academy of Sciences on global warming. "There is no doubt that humans have obviously influenced the climate," he said.
Rather than sign up to Kyoto, America will attempt to reduce the "intensity" of its greenhouse gases. It will never be able to sign up to a treaty that it cannot ratify, Dr Watson said.
"There is no way that anything like Kyoto could be ratified by the United States Senate. That is the reality of the situation and it's the reality for the foreseeable future," he said.
The US Senate will not ratify any treaty that damages the American economy and that is not ratified by all countries, he said. "In order for a treaty to get ratified by the United States it requires 67 votes in the US Senate. The problem with Kyoto is that we have an unratifiable treaty," Dr Watson said.
The President's "touchstone" for a review of the anti-pollution policies he announced in February is 2012, said Dr Watson. After that date, more stringent measures might be taken with whatever agreement Kyoto had evolved into.
"Obviously the President will no longer be President in 2012. If he's elected for a second term his term will end at the end of 2008. So that doesn't preclude of course a subsequent administration from instigating a review prior to that," Dr Watson said.
"But this is the President's intention anyway. There will a 10-year review and we'll see where we are then," he said.
Any subsequent negotiations on the Kyoto treaty, which President Bush pulled out of last year, will take place without the involvement of the United States, the biggest single producer of greenhouse gases.
"We're not going to be part of the Kyoto protocol and that review process is part of the Kyoto protocol, so the 2005 timeframe with regard to that is not something we intend to be actively engaged in," Dr Watson said.
The United States would still rely on coal-burning power stations, which produced 55 per cent of its electricity, and nuclear power stations, which generated 20 per cent of the country's electricity, he said.
At the same time, Washington would continue to fund research into renewable energy and ways of "capturing" and "sequestering" carbon emissions resulting from the burning of fossil fuel.
Dr Watson said that he and his administration did not feel isolated internationally by the decision to pull out of the Kyoto agreement.
"I don't particularly feel isolated because we're all in the same boat. We're trying to accomplish the same things. All the countries in the world are committed to the framework convention, we've chosen to take a different approach," Dr Watson said.
"Even among those countries that subscribe to Kyoto we see differences. We don't really believe there's going to be Kyoto versus a non-Kyoto world. I think we are seeing a variety of approaches," he said.
"The reality is that with the exception of the UK and Germany most of the other countries around the world are not going to meet their commitments domestically."
Climate change: The words of Dr Watson:
* "It is true that climate has been changing through the ages, long before man was here, and it will continue to change. The question is: how much of it is man-made versus what is natural. There is still a great deal of controversy about that."
* "Yes, we do accept the science that the IPCC has put forward, but we also want to address many of the uncertainties that the scientists have indicated."
* "The President's growth-based approach will accelerate the development of new technologies and encourage partnerships in climate-change issues, particularly with the developing world."
* "Clearly nuclear power is still controversial in the United States, and it has been since 1979 and Three Mile Island ... We believe that in the long term, nuclear is essential."
* "The United States, along with many other countries around the world, is going to be very dependent upon coal for the foreseeable future."