US refuses to budge on Kyoto protocol

By HARBAKSH SINGH NANDA   |   Oct. 24, 2002 at 7:58 AM
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NEW DELHI, Oct. 24 (UPI) -- The United States reiterated its stand on the Kyoto Protocol, saying it will not ratify the treaty that is aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming.

"The U.S. will not ratify the Kyoto Protocol. It won't be ratified today, not tomorrow and not during the first period of commitment," said Harlan Watson, a special representative for the Department of State.

Speaking on the sidelines of a U.N. meeting on climate change, Watson said that signing Kyoto protocol would cause irreparable loss to the U.S. economy.

"We don't want to sign a treaty that we cannot implement," Watson said.

The governments of 185 countries are participating in the Eighth Conference of the Parties to the 1992 U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. More than 4,000 delegates and observers have gathered for a 10-day meeting, the first COP summit since November 2001 when delegates completed three years of hectic negotiations on the operational details of the Kyoto Protocol, a 1997 climate pact completed last year and endorsed by most of the world's countries.

Until early this month, 84 parties have signed and 96 parties had ratified or acceded to the Kyoto Protocol that was adopted at the third session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC in Japan in 1997.

The Kyoto Protocol is aimed at reducing emissions primarily of the developed nations by 5.2 per cent by 2012.

India led a call to the developed countries to sign the Kyoto pact without delay.

Inaugurating the 10-day conference, India Environment Minister T.R. Baalu said Wednesday that problems associated with climate change have become evident with the rise in temperature beginning to affect the physical and biological systems and frequent floods and drought wreaking serious damage.

The Kyoto Protocol is subject to ratification, acceptance, approval or accession by parties to the convention. It shall come into force on the 90th day after the date on which at least 55 nations, accounting for 55 percent of the total carbon dioxide emissions in 1990, have signed the treaty. The 96 countries that have ratified the treaty account only 37 percent of global emissions.

United States, with a 36.1 percent share of global emissions, has often said it won't sign the Kyoto Protocol. However, the Russian Federation with 17.4 percent and several other countries are expected to ratify in the near future, pushing this percentage over the 55 percent threshold.

Industrialized countries that have signed the Kyoto protocol are required to cut their emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by 2012 by more than 5 percent below levels measured in 1990.

Watson said that the Bush administration planned to cut emissions with a national goal to reduce the GHG intensity by 18 percent over the next 10 years.

However, Debbie Reed of the National Environment Trust said that Bush administration has never presented the Kyoto Protocol to the Senate for ratification. "In fact, the Senate has passed two resolutions asking Bush administration to re-engage itself in international negotiations and sign a binding treaty," Reed said.

Kara Saul Rinaldi of Alliance To Save Energy said that Bush administration is also opposed to the three clauses referring to the Climate Change in the Energy Bill that is pending before the Senate that is trying to merge the Energy Bill of the House and the Senate.

But Watson said the climate change clauses in the Energy Bill are not in consistent with the energy policy spelled out by President Bush.

A statement issued by the United States said that to increase the amount of carbon stored by America's farms and forests, the United States would invest up to $47 billion in the next decade for conservation on its farms and forestlands.

"This partnership with farmers and small landowners will help protect land, water, and air, secure and enhance habitat for wildlife and greatly expand opportunities to store significant quantities of carbon in trees and the soil, as well as promote other activities to mitigate GHG emissions," the statement said.

But environmental groups say the developed countries, especially the United States, producing majority of greenhouse gases will continue to avoid the protocol. "It is not the Senate but the Bush administration that is coming in way of the Kyoto protocol," Kate Hampton of the Friends of Earth International said.

Hampton charged that Bush administration is pleasing the U.S. oil industry by walking out of the protocol, which the Clinton administration had agreed to.

The non-governmental organizations at the UNFCCC meeting awarded "Fossil of the Day" award to the United States for being the worst delegation of the day.

Hampton said that Washington was chosen for the award since it highlighted its energy policy, which is based on fossil fuels and nuclear power that contribute to the greenhouse gases.

Canada was chosen for the second worst delegation for continuing to harp on getting credit for exporting gas to the United States that leads to less consumption of coal by the United States.

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