Despite the Bush administration’s resistance, nearly every industrialized nation agreed Saturday to talks aimed at producing a new set of binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions that would take effect in 2012.
The Bush administration, which rejects the emissions cutbacks required by the current Kyoto Protocol, accepted a second, weaker conference decision, agreeing to join an exploratory global dialogue on steps to combat climate change. However, that agreement ruled out “negotiations leading to new commitments.”
The divergent tracks did little to close the gap between Washington and Kyoto supporters, which include Europe and Japan. But environmentalists welcomed the plan.
“The Kyoto Protocol is alive and kicking,” said Jennifer Morgan of the World Wide Fund for Nature.
The Montreal meeting was the first of the annual climate conferences since the Kyoto Protocol took effect in February, mandating specific cutbacks in emissions of carbon dioxide and five other gases by 2012 in 35 industrialized countries. Now the question is whether the new round of talks will lead to more ambitious emissions reductions after 2012, when Kyoto expires.
There is a broad scientific consensus that greenhouse gases, byproducts of automobile engines, power plants and fossil fuel-burning industries, contributed significantly to the global temperature rise of 1 degree in the last century.
Continued warming is melting glaciers, shrinking the Arctic icecap and heating the oceans, raising sea levels, scientists say.
The United States is the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, and the Clinton administration was instrumental in negotiating the protocol initialed in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan.
When President Bush rejected Kyoto outright in 2001, he said its mandatory cuts would harm the U.S. economy, and he complained that major developing countries were not covered.