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The Siege of Kyoto

Last December, after Clinton administration officials agreed at a summit in Kyoto, Japan, to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, Sen. Charles Hagel (R-Neb.) denounced the deal for failing to also require developing nations to reduce emissions, which contribute to global warming. The United States may indeed be responsible for one-fourth of the world’s emissions, but developing nations are catching up and will soon outstrip us unless they too take the Kyoto pledge, Hagel argued reasonably.

Now, however, he is working vigorously to prevent that from ever happening. On Monday Hagel introduced a measure essentially preventing the State Department from spending any funds “promoting country participation” in the Kyoto protocol. Similarly counterproductive is a House measure scheduled for a vote today that would bar the Clinton administration from “conducting educational outreach or informational seminars” on the Kyoto protocol.

Bowing to congressional opposition, the administration months ago backed away from making the big technology investments that would be required to achieve the U.S. emission reductions promised in Kyoto. Instead, President Clinton is now supporting a far more modest plan to study how to encourage clean technologies and help businesses implement voluntary energy-efficiency programs. Even these small steps might be squashed by the measures before Congress. Hagel says the administration is still planning to squander money on iffy science. But it’s just as easy to argue that both the House and Senate measures are cynically aimed at killing the Kyoto deal outright, an outcome that has been devoutly wished by global coal and oil companies.


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