Bush is accused of hot air as Kyoto comes into force

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The Independent US

The Bush administration was accused yesterday of deception after it claimed it was making a serious commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, despite its non-participation in the Kyoto agreement.

The Bush administration was accused yesterday of deception after it claimed it was making a serious commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, despite its non-participation in the Kyoto agreement.

Environmentalists said policies introduced by the government would not prevent the continued increase in emissions from the world's biggest greenhouse gas polluter and were little more than fig leaves.

"The bottom line is that emissions are going up and with the current Bush administration policies they are going to continue to go up," said Dan Lashof of the Natural Resources Defence Council, an environmental group. "It's misleading for them to claim they are seriously committed to reducing global warming."

President George Bush withdrew US backing for the Kyoto protocol in March 2001, saying it would be too damaging to the country's economy and would cost five million jobs. He also claimed the agreement was based on unreliable science and unfairly excluded developing nations such as India, China and Brazil, which account for a third of the world's population. Though the US originally put its signature to the proposal, it was opposed so adamantly by the US Senate that it was never submitted for ratification by President Bill Clinton.

This week, President Bush's spokesman, Scott McClellan, said that despite its withdrawal from Kyoto, the administration had initiated measures to address global warming, including investment in hydrogen fuel cell technology, tax incentives for renewable energy, the raising of fuel economy standards and a plan for zero emission by coal-fired power plants. He said: "Under this administration we have made an unprecedented commitment to reduce the growth of greenhouse gas emissions in a way that continues to grow our economy."

Campaigners said Mr McClellan was giving a false picture. Much of the money being spent, they said, was going to scientific research when there was already a broad international consensus that global warming did exist and that burning fossil fuels was a contributing factor. They also said fuel economy for cars had barely improved in 20 years.

"It's just smoke and mirrors," said Jessica Coven, a climate campaigner with Greenpeace. "They say they are spending billions of dollars but much of that money is for research into whether global warming exists. The Bush administration should be spending ... billions on solutions that are available now - solar and wind ... If there was the political will, the US could reduce its emissions."

But individual states have been credited for initiatives to reduce emissions. In November, The Independent reported how nine states, led by New York's Governor, George Pataki, were putting together a system to cap and trade greenhouse gas emissions. The regional-level initiative, details of which are due to be announced in spring, could even link up with the emissions controls and trading system being established by the EU and allow emission allowances to be traded across the Atlantic.

Under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), industries covered by the schemes will be given allocations in units of one ton of carbon dioxide produced. Polluters could then either reduce their emissions or buy allocations on a market from others. In the US, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions, which cause acid rain and smog, are federally regulated and traded, but there is no federal regulation of carbon dioxide.

IS THE WORLD WARMING TO KYOTO?

Japan

"Japan will make all efforts to respect the rules of the protocol. It will neither be easy nor insurmountable." Takashi Omura, of the Japanese environment ministry

Britain

"Over 30-40 years...this is going to be a major, major issue. It's going to cause difficulty, if not catastrophe, for parts of the world and will also affect our own. The only solution, I'm afraid, is ... we have got to pull the Americans back into dialogue." Tony Blair

Australia

"Until the major polluters of the world, including the US and China, are made part of the Kyoto regime, it is next to useless and indeed harmful for a country such as Australia to sign up." Prime Minister John Howard

Russia

"The Kyoto Protocol in itself cannot solve all problems affecting the environment and the climate. We will continue efforts aimed at ... taking into account that this does not cover all developing regions." Deputy Foreign Minister, Yury Fedotov

Mexico

"The time has come to confront a reality that puts at risk the equilibrium of the planet and the survival of our species." President Vicente Fox

UN

"Climate change requires a concerted global response. I call on the world community to adhere to the Kyoto Protocol, and to act quickly in taking the next steps." UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan

EU

"We are eager to engage in a constructive, forward-looking international process with all our partners on how we can achieve the necessary reductions" European Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso

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