U.S. Pulls Out of Kyoto Protocol
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Source: ENS (go here for full graphics)
U.S. Pulls Out of Kyoto Protocol
WASHINGTON, DC, March 28, 2001 (ENS) - Christie Todd Whitman,
head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, confirmed today
that the country will not implement the Kyoto Protocol. "We have no
interest in implementing that treaty," Whitman told reporters.
Whitman's comments come two days after the European Union wrote
to U.S. President George W. Bush, seeking his commitment to the
climate change treaty and calling on him to find political courgage.
The news has been greeted with anger and
disappointment from some quarters in the U.S.
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.
Under the Protocol, agreed in Kyoto, Japan in 1997, 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.
But the Protocol will not take effect until it is ratified by 55 percent
of the nations emitting at least 55 percent of the greenhouse gases -
carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons,
perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride.
That has yet to happen because countries disagree on how they
should be allowed to meet their targets, which while modest, are
deemed an important first step toward reversing global warming and
Under the Protocol, the U.S. is supposed to cut its greenhouse gas
emissions by seven percent. With four percent of the world's
population, the country accounts for about 25 percent of the Earth's
greenhouse gas emissions.
Bush, a former oilman, has questioned the
science behind climate change forecasts and
hinted recently that the U.S. no longer supports
the Kyoto Protocol or intends living up to the
targets the country 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
Whitman's statement today is the clearest indication yet that U.S.
involvement in United Nations organized climate change talks is all
"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?" said Whitman.
"We are not the only ones who have problems with it," said Whitman,
adding that the U.S. would remain "engaged" with the issue.
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.
Officials from more than 160
governments will meet in
Bonn, Germany, from July 16
to 27, to reconvene COP 6.
President Romano Prodi and
Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson wrote to Bush this week,
seeking talks with the U.S. prior to the resumption of COP 6 to
narrow differences between the European Union and the U.S. on how
targets should be met.
"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
European Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström responded to
"It is very worrying if it is true that the U.S. intends to pull out of the
Kyoto Protocol. The European Union is willing to discuss details and
problems - but not to scrap the whole protocol," said Wallström.
United Kingdom based environmental group Friends of the Earth
reacted angrily to today's news and called for the rest of the world
to continue climate change talks without the U.S.
"George Bush's decision to rat on the Kyoto
treaty is grim news," said Friends of the Earth
director Charles Secrett.
"When the Hague talks collapsed last year
because of U.S. intransigence, Friends of the
Earth warned that the world would pay the price
in tears. Millions of people - in the U.S. as well
as in other countries - face the loss of their homes, their jobs and
even their lives because of climate change.
"But this ignorant, short sighted and selfish politician, long since
firmly jammed into the pockets of the oil lobby, clearly couldn't care
less. The talks in Bonn in July must now concentrate on world action
independent of the U.S."
The Brussels based think tank, Centre for European Policy Studies
said the European Union must "put aside its internal squabbles,"
"summon up the courage of its convictions" and ratify the protocol
U.S. groups were equally critical. The New York based environmental
advocacy group Environmental Defense said the country's image was
"The Bush Administration's approach of explore for oil and ignore the
science on global warming leaves the U.S. increasingly isolated from
the rest of the world," said Environmental Defense executive director
"It is bad for America's interests for the United States to be seen as
the rogue nation of greenhouse gas pollution."
"By simply opposing the Kyoto Protocol
rather than seeking to improve it, the
administration would have effectively
blocked the only binding international agreement for fighting global
warming, while offering no alternative path to protect the planet,"
"This move would have the potential to slow international action on
climate change for many years. As the world's last remaining
superpower, and the world's largest producer of greenhouse gases,
the U.S. has a special obligation to lead on this issue.
"The international community and forward thinking elements of the
business community are already taking this problem on; it's time for
the new administration to face its responsibilities on global warming
The Washington, DC based Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) said
Bush had capitulated to the oil and coal industries.
"This is the most anti-environmental act by an American president in
modern history," said Alden Meyer, UCS director of government
"In one fell swoop, the President has embraced the do nothing
mantra of polluters and elevated their short term self interests above
public health and the environment. With this action, President Bush is
declaring that on the environment, the U.S. is a rogue nation.
"It is a grave error in judgment, one that will tarnish his credibility
around the globe and be judged harshly by historians and future
"World leaders must condemn this brazen act and forge ahead on
ratification and implementation of the Kyoto Protocol - with or
without the U.S."
Not everyone was so disappointed though. Glenn Kelly, executive
director of the Washington, DC based Global Climate Coalition,
welcomed Bush's and Whitman's opposition to what he called the
"irreparably flawed Kyoto Protocol."
"It is common knowledge that the Kyoto Protocol will only continue
leading us down a dead end street," said Kelly.
The UN's Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change has warned
that recent extreme weather is a
foretaste of what global warming
has in store for the Earth's climate.
"Devoting additional efforts to 'fixing'
the fundamentally flawed treaty
would simply be a waste of valuable
resources that are critically needed in other areas to develop far
more promising approaches to effectively address the important
The Global Climate Coalition represents more than six million
businesses, companies and corporations in the international policy
debate on global climate change. The group favors a technology
based approach to climate policy, rather than emissions cuts.
"The Administration appears to have signaled an intent to pursue
technology based solutions that will meet America's energy needs
while at the same time addressing important climate concerns that
will be far more effective than any thing that has been proposed to
date, including the Protocol," Kelly said.
"This is a prudent step, and clearly the right thing to do."
Pressure at home
Bush has been under increasing pressure from environmental groups
alarmed by reversals of environmental protections within the U.S.
One of the country's oldest and largest environmental groups, the
Sierra Club launched a series of radio ads criticizing the President
Running in nine states, the ads focus on Bush's decision against
reducing cancer causing arsenic in Americans' drinking water and his
about face on a campaign pledge to cut the C02 pollution that
causes global warming.
"The public cares about clean air and clean water and they need to
know that President Bush is making irresponsible choices that put
their families' health at risk," said Carl Pope, executive director of the
"President Bush is ignoring sound science and the public's demand to
keep drinking water safe and reduce the carbon dioxide pollution that
causes global warming. No one wants to drink arsenic when they turn
on their tap, but President Bush caved to the mining industry and
halted an effort to make our drinking water safer," said Pope.
Last week the Bush administration announced a roll back of new rules
that would have reduced the amount of arsenic allowed in American
According to the National Academy of Sciences, long term exposure
to low concentrations of arsenic in drinking water can lead to skin,
bladder, lung, and prostate cancer. Non-cancer effects of ingesting
arsenic at low levels include cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and
anemia, as well as reproductive and developmental, immunological,
and neurological effects.
Today, House Democratic Leader
Richard Gephardt, Representative from
Missouri, weighed in to Bush with more
examples of what he called
environmental flip flops. These included
the roll back of arsenic rules, the about
turn on CO2 emissions and Bush's wish
to open the Arctic National Wildlife
Refuge to oil drilling.
"There's a mentality that says you can't explore and protect land,"
Bush said at a media roundtable last week. "We're going to change
Gephardt said Bush's roll backs are just the beginning.
"In just two short months, the President has launched a blistering
attack on environmental regulations that affect the lives of millions of
people in our country," said Gephardt.
"Unfortunately, we have good reason to believe that the actions of
this administration are just the beginning. We think the Administration
is teeing up more rules to role back.
"They are reviewing environmental standards, looking for ways to
undo progress, putting together a budget that cuts $2.3 billion from
programs to protect natural resources."
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