EU Urges U.S. to Reconsider Global Warming Treaty

EU members 'really upset' by Bush Administration decision to walk away from Kyoto Accord.

Published: 03-Apr-2001

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The European Commission on Tuesday urged the Bush administration to reconsider its rejection of an international treaty to fight global warming and explain what other options it has in mind to prevent disastrous weather changes.

The United States, which ranks as the world's biggest producer of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, has been harshly criticized by Europe and Asia for dumping the proposed Kyoto treaty to curb greenhouse gas emissions as something not in the best interests of the U.S. economy.

Scientists widely believe that burning coal and oil produces greenhouse gas emissions that trap heat in the earth's atmosphere. A warmer climate can trigger harsh weather changes like melting polar ice caps and an ensuing higher sea level.

A European Commission delegation met on Tuesday with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman and White House aides to express its concern about Bush's decision last week to abandon the Kyoto treaty.

EC "REALLY UPSET"

"We're really upset with that decision," said an EC source, speaking on condition of anonymity. "What we would like to do is to still convince the United States not to neglect the Kyoto protocol."

The Bush administration contends that the cost of curbing emissions from coal-burning power plants and cars is too great a burden on the U.S. economy. The pact is also unfair, administration officials say, because it does not hold developing nations such as India and China to strict emissions standards.

"The claim that this could jeopardize the U.S. economy is a bit of a strange argument because the fight against climate change can be a boon for new technology and that is good for the economy," the EC source added.

The Kyoto treaty is due to take effect next year after at least half of the 110 nations which signed the treaty ratify it. The pact aims to cut carbon dioxide emissions by an average 5.2 percent from 1990 levels by 2012.

Europe will "will stick to our commitments," the source said. "We, the industrialized countries, have the main responsibility for this and must show the way for other countries."

In Berlin, Germany's environment minister said Tuesday that Washington should not block the Kyoto treaty even if it no longer agrees with it. Germany is hosting a United Nations-backed meeting this summer to map out how the Kyoto pact can be implemented.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said his government would stick to the treaty but preferred an approach that would bind developing nations to strict emissions limits.

"There's no question of are we for or against Kyoto. It's a question of what is a balanced reasoned attitude," Howard told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. He added that President Bush was "absolutely right" in arguing that developing nations should be included in the treaty.

DOE STUDY SEES EMISSIONS GROWING

Last week, the U.S. Energy Department projected that carbon dioxide emissions would grow nearly 35 percent by 2010, mostly from developing nations.

The department's new data underscored the Bush administration view that even if industrialized nations took costly measures to curb emissions, India, China and other developing countries would increase their carbon dioxide emissions.

The Clinton administration, which helped draft the Kyoto treaty, never submitted the document to the U.S. Senate for ratification because of strong opposition.

But many lawmakers have criticized President Bush's action abandoning the treaty last week, saying the administration must provide an alternative plan to help reduce emissions.

The issue of global warming is especially alarming to small island nations.

On Monday, New Zealand asked the United States to cooperate with the rest of the world on global warming, especially for the sake of small Pacific nations where many people are at risk from rising oceans levels.

"In a sense, I'm here on behalf of many of our small Pacific island nations, many of whose people live less than a meter (three feet) above sea level," said New Zealand Foreign Minister Phil Goff after meeting with Bush administration officials. "We would hope that the United States would become engaged again as soon as possible so that we jointly address this real problem."

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