WASHINGTON - Smarting from attacks both here and
abroad on his
unilateral abandonment of the Kyoto Protocol to curb global
President George W. Bush Thursday insisted that the world will
a stronger US economy unhampered by restrictions on greenhouse-gas
In a confusing statement just before meeting with German
Schroeder, the US president told reporters that he intends to
European and other leaders about global warming, but that he would
anything'' that could set back the US economy.
''I will explain as clearly as I can today and every other chance
I get, that
we will not do anything that harms our economy, because first
things first are
the people who live in America; that's my priority,'' he said.
''I'm worried about the economy; I'm worried about the lack of an
policy. It's in our national interests that we develop a strong
with realistic, common-sense environmental policy,'' he said.
''And I'm going
to explain that to our friends. It is in their interest, by the
way, that our
economy remain strong - after all, we're a free-trading
administration - we
trade with each other.''
Bush was expected to get an earful from Schroeder about European
the decision, which was formally confirmed Wednesday by White
''The president has been unequivocal,'' Fleischer told reporters,
earlier statement by the head of the Environmental Protection
Christine Todd Whitman, who had tried hard over the past two weeks
Bush not to abandon the 1997 Protocol. ''He does not support the
It is not in the United States' economic best interests.''
While the White House statement had been signalled in a letter to
right-wing senators two weeks ago, when Bush reversed a campaign
emissions by US power plants of carbon dioxide, few thought his
Kyoto would come out quite so quickly and bluntly, particularly
importance attached to the Protocol by Europe and Japan,
Bush has stressed from the outset that his administration would
set as its top
foreign-policy priority consolidating ties with the allies.
But both European and Japanese diplomats have expressed growing
unease at a
number of unilateral moves by Bush since his inauguration in
his rebuff of South Korean President Kim Dae Jung's ''sunshine''
North Korea; his expulsion of 50 Russian diplomats in retaliation
over a spy
case; and his seemingly determined pursuit of national missile
which US intelligence experts have warned could provoke a new arms
In that respect, the latest move is certain to contribute to
anxiety. In an
effort to persuade Bush to continue participating in the Kyoto
herself warned in a leaked memo that most US allies considered
game in town''.
''Mr. President,'' she urged, ''this is a credibility issue for
the US in the
international community. We need to appear engaged and shift the
from the focus on the K-word (Kyoto) to action, but we have to
build some bona
When he reversed his campaign pledge the following week, the
(EU) sent a delegation who met with National Security Adviser
to gain assurances that Washington would still be engaged in the
On the contrary, however, Rice reportedly told them that, so far
as the United
States was concerned, Kyoto was dead.
''It's a textbook case of unilateral diplomacy, which rarely works
brings resentment,'' said David Sandalow, who helped negotiate the
under the Bill Clinton administration.
Ironically, the Protocol came out of a series of negotiations
industrialised countries that followed a climate-change convention
Bush's father at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Under
signatory states agreed to cut their greenhouse emissions by about
below 1990 levels by the year 2012.
Greenhouse gases - including carbon dioxide, which is emitted by
of fossil fuels, like coal and oil - are believed by most
scientists to be
responsible for the accelerating warming of the Earth's atmosphere
In its latest report, the UN's International Panel on Climate
estimated that average temperatures on the Earth's surface could
rise by as
much as 5.8 degrees Celsius by the year 2100 if present emission
altered, with potentially catastrophic consequences.
While Clinton and other western leaders signed the Protocol, no
ratified it, as the precise mechanisms by which those reductions
achieved are still being hashed out in negotiations, the last of
place at The Hague late last year. The next round is scheduled for
The US Senate, which would have to ratify the accord, strongly
Protocol due to concerns over its potential impact on the US
economy - a
subject of major debate between the energy industry and
the fact that developing countries were not covered. Bush raised
objections in his letter to the senators.
Given Washington's diplomatic weight and status as the world's
of greenhouse gases (about 25 percent of total emissions), its
mean the collapse of the entire negotiations, according to both
environmentalists and diplomats here.
''Bush's decision to abandon America's commitment to the Kyoto
created the most serious international environmental policy crisis
according to Christopher Flavin, president of the Worldwatch
''It is time for Europe and Japan to call the US bluff and adopt
Protocol, perhaps abandoning some of the more problematic elements
on by the United States (during the negotiations).''
''As the world's last remaining superpower, and its largest
greenhouse gases, the United States has a special obligation to
lead on this
issue,'' said Fred Krupp of the New York-based Environmental
Defense. ''It is
bad for America's interests for the United States to be seen as
nation of greenhouse gas pollution.''
Copyright 2001 IPS