WASHINGTON - The United States, flying in the face of snowballing world opinion, said it would not follow Russia's lead and ratify the Kyoto protocol on global warming.
"We have no intention of signing or ratifying it. We have not changed our views," a defiant deputy State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said after the European Union and environmentalists across the globe hailed Moscow's decision and urged Washington to follow suit.
Heading the chorus of delight after the Russian cabinet approved the Kyoto pact and sent it to lawmakers for ratification was the EU, which has been battling to save the accord thrown into disarray by the US walkout.
A major blow to President Bush and his paymasters in the fossil fuel industry.
His administration and other climate criminals like Exxon-Mobil have failed in their attempt to wreck Kyoto, even going so far as to suppress the work of their own scientists.
Greenpeace Intl campaigner Steve Sawyer
"This is a huge success for the international fight against climate change," declared European Commission President Romano Prodi. "Today (Russian) President (Vladimir) Putin has sent a strong signal of his commitment and sense of responsibility.
"We are happy that the Russian Duma has decided to ratify. We hope that the United States will now re-consider its position."
But the State Department left no room for hope.
"We note the actions taken today," said Ereli, "but I'd refer you to the Russians for opinion or comment on their rationale for ratifying it. Our position against it remains the same."
EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstroem said Russia's action "sends a very forceful signal to the rest of the world... It is also very much a victory for the European Union."
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, a Green party member, said, "For the first time there can be global responsibility for the world's climate and the management of its resources."
"This is an important signal to the entire international community," said German Environment Minister Juergen Trittin, also a Green, the junior partner in Germany's governing coalition.
French Ecology Minister Serge Lepeltier said he was "delighted."
And Greenpeace International campaigner Steve Sawyer said US President George W. Bush, whose rejection of Kyoto in 2001 pushed the pact toward extinction, was now isolated.
Getting Russia on board, he said, dealt "a major blow to President Bush and his paymasters in the fossil fuel industry.
"His administration and other climate criminals like Exxon-Mobil have failed in their attempt to wreck Kyoto, even going so far as to suppress the work of their own scientists."
On the other side, Frank Maisano, a Washington lobbyist for the US utilities industry, dismissed the Russian move as "largely symbolic," and called the treaty "meaningless, ineffective and toothless."
And Japanese industry fretted over the economic cost of meeting anti-pollution targets and doubted whether Kyoto was workable.
"It is questionable if the treaty, which commits only one-third of the world's countries to obligations, will prove effective while the United States and China stay out of it," said Yuzo Ichikawa, executive director of the Japan Iron and Steel Federation.
China is a Kyoto member but as a developing country does not have to meet specific targets for cutting emissions.
Russia's ratification is vital for transforming Kyoto from a draft 1997 agreement into a working international treaty. Moscow had for years hedged on whether it would approve the pact.
The Protocol requires industrialized signatories to trim output of six "greenhouse" gases by 2008-2012 compared with their 1990 levels.
In the United States, in the throes of a hotly contested presidential race just days from the November 2 election, Democratic challenger John Kerry made little effort to distance himself from incumbent Bush, saying Kyoto "is not the answer."
"The near-term emission reductions it would require of the United States are unfeasible, while the long-term obligations imposed on all nations are too little to solve the problem," he said on his website.
Bush, in the second debate on October 8, said, "Had we joined the Kyoto treaty...it would have cost America a lot of jobs. It's one of these deals where, in order to be popular in the halls of Europe, you sign a treaty...I think there's a better way to do it."
Kerry at the time had accused Bush of not "living in a world of reality with respect to the environment.
"The fact is that the Kyoto treaty was flawed," he said. "But this president didn't try to fix it. He just declared it dead...and we walked away from the work of 160 nations over 10 years."
© Copyright 2004 AFP