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Agreement Reached on Kyoto Protocol

BY Admin  July 23, 2001 at 3:30 PM EDT

President Bush refused to reconsider his opposition to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol during talks with allies at the G-8 summit in Genoa, Italy. Still, 178 other countries finalized the treaty’s details at a conference in Bonn, Germany.

The treaty calls for industrialized nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the air pollution thought to cause global warming.

“It’s a brilliant day for the environment,” British environment minister Michael Meacher said. “It is a huge leap to have achieved a result on this very complex international negotiation.”

Negotiators said the treaty would be stronger with U.S. participation, as the U.S. emits more greenhouse gases than any other country, by a wide margin.

Paula Dobriansky, head of the U.S. delegation, was booed from the gallery when she insisted the Bush administration would address climate change.

“Although the United States does not intend to ratify that agreement, we have not sought to stop others from moving ahead, so long as legitimate U.S. interests were protected,” she said.

“This does not change our view that the Kyoto Protocol is not sound policy.”

President Bush rejects the Kyoto Protocol on the grounds that it would be harmful to the U.S. economy and does not address the problems of rapidly developing countries such as China and India.

Tough negotiations

A breakthrough with Japan was instrumental in today’s agreement. Japan would have preferred a treaty that included the U.S., but signed on when emission reduction targets were made less legally binding.

Other key negotiation topics included emission credits for forests absorbing carbon dioxide, mechanisms for offsetting reduction targets, financing and sanctions.

The EU agreed to allow forests and farmlands to count towards emission reductions. This was a major concession, since EU-American disagreement over the role of carbon dioxide-absorbing forests contributed to the failure of last November’s global warming conference in The Hague.

Environmental groups said allowing the forest “carbon sinks” would reduce the extent of greenhouse gas reductions and the effectiveness of the treaty. Kyoto calls for developed countries to reduce their collective greenhouse gas emissions to 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.

Negotiators will now take the protocol to their governments for ratification. Fifty-five nations responsible for 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions must ratify the treaty before it can be enacted.