Kyoto Crunch; Dozens of Countries Compelled to Cut Emissions under New Pact
Byline: Jeffrey Sparshott, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The Kyoto Protocol beginning today legally binds 35 countries - though not the United States - to reduce emissions of gases that contribute to global warming.
"The 16th of February ... marks the beginning of a new era in international efforts to reduce the risk of climate change," said Joke Waller-Hunter, executive secretary of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, the bureaucracy for Kyoto.
The 25 members of the European Union, Japan and other participants see the treaty as a first, small step toward combating global warming. The Bush administration says it would be a misstep that would stunt economic growth at home and shift polluting factories abroad.
The disagreements on the science and immediate goals embodied in the pact led the U.S. Senate to vote against ratifying Kyoto, and President Bush in 2001 formally backed away from the treaty.
Australia is the other major developed economy to discard the agreement. China, India and other developing nations do not have to reduce emissions as part of the United Nations-brokered agreement.
So while some of the world will mark Kyoto during a series of small ceremonies, the pact will not be celebrated in official Washington.
"We do not see the Kyoto Protocol as having an impact on U.S. climate-change policy. We work with and engage countries, that have supported the Kyoto Protocol and have not supported the Kyoto Protocol, in a wide variety of initiatives," said Paula Dobriansky, the State Department's undersecretary for global affairs, the office that oversees international, environmental and scientific efforts.
Nations meeting in Kyoto, Japan, drew up the climate protocol in 1997 amid rising concern that greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, were accumulating in the atmosphere and causing air and ocean temperatures to rise.
The Kyoto Protocol calls for rich nations to limit greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels. The United States, for example, accepted a 7 percent reduction by 2012, a goal later abandoned.
Instead, the administration is working on a series of programs that rely on market incentives and technology to slow the rate of greenhouse gas emissions, such as energy-related tax breaks, funding for hydrogen fuel development and climate research, and voluntary international initiatives.
"When I look around the world what I see is the portfolio the U.S. put on the table domestically equals or exceeds what the other nations of the world are doing. And there's a heck of a lot of common ground in terms of measures that are actually being implemented," said James L. …