- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 5, 2002

President Bush yesterday reiterated his opposition to the Kyoto treaty on global warming as Japan ratified the protocol, and distanced himself from a report by the Environmental Protection Agency that suggested that human activity is responsible for a warming climate.
"I do not support the Kyoto treaty," Mr. Bush told reporters during a visit to the National Security Agency at Fort Meade, Md. "The Kyoto treaty would severely damage the United States economy, and I don't accept that."
The president was asked about the EPA report, "U.S. Climate Action Report 2000," which was submitted to the United Nations as required by law. Asked whether he planned further initiatives to combat global warming, Mr. Bush replied: "No, I've laid out that very comprehensive initiative. I read the report put out by the bureaucracy." There was no explanation of why the EPA, whose director, Christie Whitman, was appointed by the president, submitted a report that diverges from the president's views.
Mr. Bush last year provoked criticism from European governments and praise from the U.S. business community with his announcement that the administration would not participate in the 1997 protocol, which requires industrial countries to limit their emission of the gases blamed for global climate change.
The treaty would require the United States to cut carbon-dioxide emissions by 7 percent from their 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012. The administration estimated the cost to bring U.S. industry and consumers into line could be $400 billion.
"I accept the alternative we've put out that we can grow our economy and, at the same time, through technologies, improve our environment," Mr. Bush said yesterday.
Yesterday's ratification of the pact by Japan's parliament brings its supporters close to winning over enough countries to have the treaty take effect, most likely by the end of the year.
"The Kyoto treaty is an important international step towards tackling climate change," Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said in a statement. "I very much hope that other countries will join as soon as possible." Japanese officials said they would press other countries, including the United States, to ratify Kyoto as well.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the president regards global warming as "a serious issue," and believes the best immediate approach is his proposal for voluntary reduction of carbon dioxide emissions by industry and a $4.5 billion program to improve the science of climate study.
The EPA report to the United Nations noted that there is "considerable uncertainty" relating to the science of climate change, and that any "definitive prediction of potential outcomes is not yet feasible," Mr. Fleischer said.
He took note that the report by the EPA says that "one of the weakest links in our knowledge is the connection between global and regional predictions of climate change."
"The president has outlined a new approach with a plan to significantly reduce the growth in greenhouse gas emissions while sustaining economic growth needed to invest in new technologies to make our environment cleaner and to invest in science to better understand the challenges presented by climate change.
"The president's budget for fiscal year 2003 provides $4.5 billion in funding for climate change, with a substantial amount of funds dedicated to research to reduce scientific uncertainties related to climate change," the White House spokesman told reporters at his daily briefing.
The New York Times, in breaking the story about the EPA report in its Monday editions, reported that the administration "for the first time mostly blames human actions for recent global warming [by] the burning of fossil fuels."
The story quoted environmentalists criticizing the administration for acknowledging the problem but failing to take action to cut greenhouse gas emissions, as called for by the Kyoto Protocol. The EPA document, the New York Times reported, "recommends adapting to inevitable changes."
Scott McClellan, a White House spokesman, said changes in science and technology made possible by the proposed administration spending might result in different approaches to the global warming issue. The EPA report "doesn't take into account what would happen if you implement the president's comprehensive approach."
Mr. McClellan said the EPA report, which the president dismissed as "from the bureaucracy," was coordinated with the President's Council on Environmental Quality, with offices across the street from the White House, and submitted to the United Nations by the State Department.
Japan's action, meanwhile, makes it likelier that the United States is headed for a confrontation over global warming at a U.N. summit in South Africa later this year, diplomats said. The United States signed the treaty in 1997 under President Clinton. Even though Mr. Bush has said the United States will not be bound by Kyoto, the pact has never formally been either voted down in the Senate or rejected in the manner that Mr. Bush repudiated the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court.
With ratification by the 15-nation European Union on Friday, Kyoto supporters are just short of the legal threshold for it to become binding international law.
The agreement specifies that at least 55 countries representing 55 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions must ratify Kyoto for it to take effect. More than 70 countries have ratified the pact, and the expected ratification by Russia and Poland later this year would push the treaty over the threshold.
Opponents of the agreement had charged European countries and others with hypocrisy for supporting Kyoto without going through with ratification.


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