US Resists Changing Stance Amid Climate Warnings
USA: December 16, 2004
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - Meteorologists warned on Wednesday that
2004 would be one of the hottest years since records began as
environment ministers tried to crack US resistance to joining
international efforts against global warming.
The Geneva-based World Meteorological Organization said in its annual
report that 2004 would be the fourth-hottest since record-keeping
began in 1861 and predicted global warming would continue with more
extreme weather like hurricanes and droughts.
The report came as environment ministers from 80 countries met on
Wednesday for the final days of a UN conference on climate change.
The conference of nearly 200 nations has turned into a polarized
affair, with the European Union and nations supporting the Kyoto
protocol to cut greenhouse gases in one camp and the United States,
the world's biggest polluter, in the other.
Just two months before Kyoto goes into force thanks to Russia's
recent ratification, the United States has made it very clear it will
not sign up for Kyoto's mandatory caps on emissions after President
George W. Bush withdrew from the agreement in 2001.
The US delegation has also said repeatedly over the last nine days
that it is "premature" to negotiate anything for when Kyoto expires
That stonewalling has earned the United States few friends at this
tenth United Nations meeting, where many of the 6,000 participants
wear cords around their necks saying: "No to Bush, Yes to Kyoto."
But the head of the US delegation, Paula Dobriansky, said the
perception that Washington is resistant to global climate change
efforts was unfair.
"We believe we have a common goal and a common commitment, and that
there are multiple strategies to reach that. So I think we're very
committed to working with others," Dobriansky told Reuters late on
British Prime Minister Tony Blair will be working to soften Bush on
climate change during its G8 presidency next year, but analysts
believe he will be unsuccessful.
Although responsible for 25 percent of the world's emissions, the
United States wants no legally binding rules that could hurt economic
growth and it says it is not convinced by scientific evidence of a
planet in crisis.
The US position got a boost, however, from Italy in Buenos Aires as
it called for an end to the binding agreements of the Kyoto protocol
after 2012 in favor of voluntary targets that would entice the United
States, China and India.
Kyoto, which will reduce emissions by five percent in industrialized
nations, is only a first step and excludes developing countries like
China and India, who are already among the top five polluters.
The European Union, the world leader in the fight to cut heat-
trapping gases, tried to quell notions of dissent in its ranks.
"What the Italian minister said is quite right. We have to involve
the fast-growing developing countries and the United States in the
after-2012 regime," said Dutch Environment Minister Pieter van Geel,
heading the EU delegation.
EU commissioner for the environment, Stavros Dimas, indicated that
Buenos Aires is the very beginning of a long process. He hopes
for "an informal agreement for the process for paving the way to
launching negotiations for post-2012."
Environmental activists, meanwhile, are exasperated by the lack of
urgency at the conference, which they blame on excessive deference to
an unwilling United States.
"We could be leaving this city without any achievement," said Gurmit
Singh of the Climate Action Network in Southeast Asia.
One of the conference's main goals is to approve an aid package for
developing countries to adapt to climate change. But a powerful Saudi
Arabia delegation led by Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi is seen blocking
"For them, it's a principle to block the negotiations because they
are involved with US oil and other fossil fuel industries which have
no interest in Kyoto," said Stephan Singer of WWF.
(Additional reporting by Hilary Burke and Juana Casas)
Story by Mary Milliken
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE