Since the collapse in November of global warming talks at The Hague, the Kyoto climate treaty has been on life support. Now President Bush appears to have "pulled the plug" at least as far as U.S. involvement goes.
"We'll be working with our allies to reduce greenhouse gases, but I will not accept a plan that will harm our economy and hurt American workers," the president told reporters Thursday when asked about the climate agreement reached in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan.
He said he would remain "open minded" on addressing the threats of global warming. But he maintained the Kyoto agreement's mandatory reductions in heat-trapping greenhouse gases, principally carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels, and short timetable are too expensive and unwise when the country faces energy problems.
He reiterated his views in a meeting Thursday with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who had sought to convince Bush that U.S. support of the Kyoto agreement was essential for international success in tackling the global warming threat.
"We agreed on practically everything except ... the Kyoto Protocol," Schroeder told reporters afterward.
Three years and four months ago, then-Vice President Al Gore hailed the Kyoto agreement, which he personally helped craft, as a breakthrough in addressing climate change. It called on industrial nations to cut heat-trapping emissions to below 1990 levels by 2012.
No industrial country has yet ratified the agreement and none, except possibly Britain, is at this time on target to meet its reductions requirements. Attempts to work out mechanisms to implement and enforce its provisions have foundered.
At the same time, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions have continued to grow to where they're now nearly 15 percent higher than 1990 and climbing. Many scientists believe such emissions are causing the Earth to warm up significantly.
EPA Administrator Christie Whitman insisted that while the Kyoto approach was "deeply flawed," the president remains "absolutely committed" to continued engagement with other countries on the climate issue.
The United States will participate in the next round of climate talks in July in Bonn, Germany, administration officials said.
But what remains unclear is what proposals U.S. negotiators will take to Bonn, which is supposed to be a followup meeting in which 160 nations hoped to work out an implementation plan for the Kyoto treaty.