- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 29, 2001

The White House said yesterday it is discarding the global-warming treaty negotiated by President Clinton and will seek a new treaty in international negotiations this summer that covers all nations.

President Bush campaigned against the Clinton treaty, negotiated in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997, because it exempts scores of developing nations from mandatory reductions in greenhouse gases while requiring a one-third cut in U.S. emissions and energy use that economists say would harm the U.S. economy.

"It's important to include the world in the treaty, not exempt most of the world," said White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer. "To exempt most of the world is not a treaty the president thinks is in the interest of this country, or would get the job done."

Mr. Fleischer said the administration wants to take a fresh approach at negotiations scheduled for July in Bonn, Germany.

"The president does believe that working with our friends and allies, and through international processes, we can develop technologies, market-based incentives, and other innovative approaches that can combat global climate change," he said.

Vice President Richard B. Cheney is heading a Cabinet-level task force that is looking for pragmatic ways to deal with the risk of climate change. Mr. Cheney said in an interview with MSNBC over the weekend that one way to dramatically cut emissions is through increased reliance on nuclear power.

"We do not support the approach of the Kyoto treaty," he said. "If you're really serious about greenhouse gases, one of the solutions to that problem is to go back, and let's take another look at nuclear-power plants … They don't emit any carbon dioxide. They don't emit greenhouse gases."

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said yesterday the administration will not seek to reverse former Vice President Al Gore's signature on the treaty he helped clinch in Kyoto. But he said it also will not send the treaty to the Senate for ratification effectively burying it.

The Kyoto treaty ran into serious trouble starting in 1997, even before it was struck, when the Senate signaled in a unanimous vote that it would not ratify any treaty that harms the U.S. economy and excludes developing nations.

The treaty took a step closer to the scrap heap in December when a last-ditch attempt by the Clinton administration to work out details in negotiations at The Hague collapsed as a result of seemingly irreconcilable differences with the European Union.

Most Senate Republicans vocally oppose the treaty. Senate Assistant Majority Leader Don Nickles recalled the 1997 vote against it and called the treaty "imbalanced" after meeting with President Bush at the White House yesterday.

But it was Senate Democrats who last week confirmed that it could not pass the Senate in its current form. The Democrats included a proposal in their energy bill to postpone for a decade the mandatory cut below 1990 emissions levels that the treaty imposes on the United States.

Nevertheless, Democrats yesterday sought to capitalize on the perception that the White House is backtracking on environmental safeguards put in place by the Clinton administration.

"The new president came to town saying he would change the tone and change the climate in Washington. I guess we didn't realize it was the real climate he wanted to change," said House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat, surrounded by environmentalists at a news conference.

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat and Mr. Gore's running mate in last year's election contest with Mr. Bush, said the White House's move to discard the treaty marks the United States as a "renegade" and shows it is out of "tune with the world's thinking."

Mr. Fleischer said the treaty has almost no chance of being ratified, not only in the Senate, but also in the other 54 countries that must approve the protocol before it can go into effect. He noted that only Romania has ratified the treaty.

"It is a signal worldwide that others agree with the president's position," he said.

While no Western European country has ratified the treaty, Germany, Britain and several others have taken preliminary steps to carry it out, including imposing harsh new taxes on gasoline and other fuels that provoked popular protests throughout Europe last summer.

Mr. Bush's opposition to the accord is expected to be a major point of tension at a meeting today with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Mr. Schroeder wrote Mr. Bush last week asking him to support the treaty.

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