- The Washington Times - Friday, July 13, 2001

Costa Rica's president said he would propose a unique debt-for-carbon swap at a meeting with President Bush today, in which his country would take on some American anti-pollution obligations under any future climate agreement.
The United States has argued in international climate talks for such an approach, under which countries that exceed pollution-abatement targets could "sell" the differences to countries that fall short of their targets.
President Miguel Angel Rodriguez told reporters and editors at The Washington Times his country was prepared to protect vast forest areas, which serve to soak up carbon-based pollution from the atmosphere.
In return, he would seek forgiveness from a portion of Costa Rica's $200 million debt to the United States, using the money it saved to purchase the parkland from private owners.
"In the United States, you are offsetting your emissions and in Costa Rica the carbon would be fixed in the land. This is absolute preservation and the preservation of biodiversity," he said.
The approach presupposes a new climate agreement or a renegotiation of the Kyoto Protocol, which now makes no provision for the exchange of pollution quotas.
Mr. Rodriguez, who said he would present his idea at a White House meeting today, expressed sympathy for Mr. Bush's refusal to go along with the Kyoto agreement, which Japan and most Western European countries have backed but not ratified.
Kyoto calls for developed countries to reduce carbon emissions to 1990 levels. But pollution has risen more quickly in the United States than in Europe in the past decade because of German reunification and other developments, making it much easier for Europe to meet its targets, he said.
"We understand the problems the United States has with Kyoto," he said. "There is very little cost to Europe but a very large cost to the United States.
"We need to move ahead, not on the basis of 1990, but based on emissions levels in 2000 or 2001, making the levels more just."
Mr. Rodriguez was more sympathetic to provisions in the Kyoto agreement relieving countries like Brazil, India and China from strict pollution-abatement requirements.
Congress and the Bush administration have widely condemned those provisions of the treaty.
But Mr. Rodriguez said if undeveloped countries were locked into their present rates of pollution, they would be forever barred from the sort of development that the West has enjoyed.
"It is not fair that the world be divided into countries that have already polluted and those who have not reached that level of economic development," Mr. Rodriguez said.

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