- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 21, 2000

THE HAGUE, Netherlands The United States and Europe clashed yesterday over how to carry out the global-warming treaty, with two Republican senators warning that the pact is endangered by European attempts to box the United States into deep energy cuts.
But behind the scenes, the two sides made compromises on relying on air-cleansing forests and farmland to absorb carbon dioxide, which is the principal greenhouse gas thought to cause global warming.
U.S. Undersecretary of State Frank E. Loy said the United States would agree to count only one-third of the carbon dioxide absorbed by U.S. forests 125 million tons a year toward its goal of cutting carbon emissions by 600 million tons a year. Under the previous proposal, forests would have counted for half of the needed reduction.
The treaty, drafted in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997, calls for a worldwide reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide primarily from fossil fuels and other heat-trapping gases by an average 5.2 percent from their 1990 levels.
The main burden would fall on industrialized countries. Europe must cut by 8 percent, the United States by 7 percent and Japan by 6 percent. The target date is 2012.
Europeans want the United States to achieve most of its cut by scaling back on the use of cars, sports-utility vehicles, electricity and other popular American energy-guzzling habits.
Some environmentalists immediately dismissed the U.S. compromise as inadequate, but others said Europe is likely to be drawn into meeting the United States halfway by the end of this week's negotiations to hammer out final agreement on mechanisms for carrying out the treaty.
European negotiators, in an apparent concession to the United States and their allies in Japan and Canada, yesterday agreed to count all of the carbon absorbed by farms and rangeland toward the emissions-reduction targets, Mr. Loy said.
The U.S. proposal to rely on the nation's vast wilderness and green spaces to comply with the treaty has gained popularity in the Republican-controlled Senate, where one-time critics of the treaty from rural states now see the possibility for financial gain.
Farmers and ranchers who manage their land in a way that conserves carbon would be able to sell carbon "credits" to utilities and other businesses that emit carbon dioxide. This financial windfall led major U.S. farm groups like the American Farm Bureau to express tentative support for the treaty this week.
"Agriculture should be a factor," said Idaho Sen. Larry E. Craig, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference who is acting as an observer at the negotiations. He added it would be foolish to omit the vast carbon-absorbing forests from the agreement. He described himself as a one-time skeptic who has come to believe that global warming is a real problem that needs to be remedied.
"We released more carbon into the atmosphere from raging forests fires this year than we probably ever will again," he said. Many of those fires might have been averted with proper forest management practices.
The idea of elevating the role of forests in combating climate change also got a boost yesterday from the chief scientist in the negotiations, Robert T. Watson, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
"Whether we increase sequestration from forests or cut fossil fuel use," it all has the same effect on the atmosphere, he said.
French President Jacques Chirac put the European view bluntly in a speech opening the second week of negotiations, titillating the conference with his frankness and flustering the U.S. delegation.
"The United States alone produces a quarter of the world's emissions," he told the assembled delegates of 180 countries. "Each American emits three times more greenhouse gases than a Frenchman."
Mr. Chirac, speaking for the 15-nation European Union, also took a jab at the many skeptics in Congress who question whether the recent warming of the earth's atmosphere represents an alarming trend that warrants the drastic action called for in the treaty, which they say could undermine U.S. economic growth.
"I call upon the United States of America to cast aside their doubts and hesitations," he said, contending that the economy can be "energy-efficient, yet no less thriving."
Mr. Craig and Sen. Chuck Hagel, who are observers for Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, and Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the Republican presidential candidate, warned that Europe's hardening stance aimed at making Americans pay for their excesses is endangering the treaty.
"It's not productive to start removing things from the table that provide energy needs," Mr. Craig said, citing European resistance to U.S. proposals to reduce greenhouse emissions by relying more on nuclear power, clean-coal technology, and forests, grasslands and farms.
"I'm going to be very frustrated if those things are taken off the table," he said.
The Senate, which must ratify the final treaty, unanimously approved a resolution stipulating that the treaty must cause no economic harm to the United States and include participation by developing countries. Without a U.S. endorsement, it would be difficult for the treaty to come into force.
Mr. Hagel, Nebraska Republican, contended that the use of unlimited alternatives to achieve emissions cuts was contemplated in the broad outlines of the treaty.
Mr. Craig added that any treaty that restricts flexibility could be a "slam-dunk no vote" when it reaches the Senate for ratification.
Mr. Chirac also rejected demands by U.S. senators that Third World countries be included in the treaty, saying it would be "premature to demand quantified commitments from these countries."
Mr. Chirac's statements got a pointed response from the two senators.
"To single the United States out does not facilitate a cooperative spirit," Mr. Hagel said.
"If we're going to be graded on greenhouse gas emissions, we ought to be graded as well for our contribution to medicine, technology and science" and the feeding of the world, Mr. Craig said.
"Do we squander energy? Yes, we do," he said. "But are we productive? Yes."

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