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Fecha:Viernes, 30 de Marzo, 2001  13:38:27 (-0400)
Autor:Julio Cesar Centeno <jcenteno>

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

By Eric Pianin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 28, 2001; Page A01

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."


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