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Bush firm over Kyoto stance

WASHINGTON -- President George W. Bush has vowed to work with U.S. allies on reducing greenhouse gas emissions -- but stood firm on his rejection of the Kyoto Treaty on global warming.

Bush discussed the issue with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder at the White House on Thursday.

The president has faced an international outcry after rejecting the 1997 Kyoto protocol agreed by the major powers in an effort to slow down the reduction in the ozone layer.

Schroeder said the two countries had agreed on a range of international issues during the meeting -- except Kyoto.

He said it would be "no surprise" to hear that Germany, which is a major backer of the protocol, and the U.S. had failed to agree on the issue.

But he said the two countries were happy to admit they had "different positions" and that they would instead look at joint efforts "in and around" climate policy such as improving energy efficiency and solar energy.

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"We will jointly look at topics that can contribute to a better climate in the future based on our friendly relations," Schroeder said through a translator.

"We can take a stand on this and will do so."

Germany is to host the next climate meeting in the summer.

President Bush gave no indication his view of global warming or the Kyoto agreement had changed after their two-hour session.

The president said he had explained to Schroeder that a domestic "energy crisis" made capping carbon dioxide emissions from power plants -- thought to be a contributor to global warming -- unfeasible.

He had said earlier: "I will not accept a plan that will harm our economy and hurt our workers."

But Bush said he would work with Germany and other U.S. allies to devise a plan that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions linked to global climate change.

Many scientists think greenhouse gases, emitted by burning oil and oil, are heating up the Earth's atmosphere dangerously.

The agreement, never ratified by the U.S., specifies that industrial nations must reduce emissions by 2012 to an average of 5.2 percent below 1990 levels.

The U.S. would be required to cut emissions by 7.2 percent of its 1990 level.

Christie Whitman, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said on Tuesday the administration has no plans to implement the accord because Congress would never ratify it.

The White House said on Wednesday that Bush would seek an alternative to the Kyoto global warming pact that would "include the world" in the effort to reduce pollution by meeting certain standards.

U.S. isolated

Environmental activists say the U.S. has just six percent of the world's total population yet produces a quarter of the globe's carbon dioxide.

Italian Environment Minister Willer Bordon called Bush's decision "extremely grave."

"International agreements cannot be discarded or made secondary to national politics," Bordon said. "The United States' rejection of the Kyoto protocol should be denounced, and in a formal manner."

European Union Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstroem said: "This isn't some marginal environmental issue that can be ignored or played down. It has to do with trade and economics."

While stressing it was too soon to discuss "tactics to punish the United States," Wallstroem said she will go to Washington next week with an EU delegation to seek clarification of the Bush administration's position.

British Environment Minister Michael Meacher said Kyoto "was signed up to by every single nation on earth, and if America now tries to walk away ... I think this is not just an environmental issue, it's an issue of transatlantic global foreign policy."

Australian Environment Minister Robert Hill said the collapse of the Kyoto protocol would be "a major step backwards."

Japan said on Thursday that it will urge the U.S. to rethink its position. "In terms of the effectiveness of the Kyoto protocol, the U.S. participation is crucial," Yasuko Ishii of the environment ministry said.

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U.S. Global Warming Site
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