Bush to unveil alternative global warming plan
CNN Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush will unveil his alternative to the Kyoto agreement to combat global warming Thursday, offering businesses incentives to achieve an estimated 4.5 percent voluntary reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. over 10 years and to reduce power plant emissions by the "largest amount" in U.S. history, according to a senior administration official.
The president's plan is dramatically lower than the estimated 33 percent reduction sought by the Kyoto agreement for the United States, the world's largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions. The Kyoto agreement, which called for the U.S. to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 7 percent below 1990 levels, required mandatory reductions, whereas the Bush plan would be voluntary.
The president's plan links the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to economic output, calling for an 18 percent reduction in greenhouse gas intensity over 10 years. Greenhouse gas intensity is the ratio of greenhouse gas emissions and economic output. A senior administration official said this equates to a cut of emissions in the U.S. of roughly 4.5 percent over 10 years, which the official said is "on par" with what other countries are required to do under Kyoto.
"This new approach is based on the common sense idea that sustainable economic growth is the key to environmental progress -- because it is growth that provides the resources for investment in clean technologies," Bush is expected to say in remarks prepared for a Thursday address at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Equivalent of 70 million cars off the road
Administration officials said the president's plan will prevent at least 500 million metric tons of greenhouse gases from being emitted, or the equivalent of 70 million cars being taken off the road, roughly the same projections for the Kyoto agreement.
However, administration officials told CNN that if the United States can get the global community, including developing nations, to participate in the president's plan, then the actual reduction of greenhouse emissions would be larger than under Kyoto.
Bush rejected the Kyoto agreement, which 178 other nations accepted last year, because it exempted developing nations and large polluters such as India. Bush also charged it would harm the U.S. economy -- the White House says Kyoto would ultimately result in the loss of $400 billion to the U.S. economy and a loss of 4.9 million jobs.
The president faced tremendous criticism from environmental groups and U.S. allies, including Japan, for rejecting Kyoto. The Kyoto treaty was named after the Japanese city where the treaty was negotiated and signed.
The timing of Bush's announcement comes as he prepares to travel to Asia and the president wanted to unveil an alternative to Kyoto before the trip, with visits planned to Japan, South Korea and China.
"The president is very concerned about the effect Kyoto would have on America's workers, on American jobs and on the American economy, that it is not the right remedy to have a massive reduction below 1990 levels," said Ari Fleischer, White House press secretary.
"If that were to go into effect, it would have a screeching-halt effect on the economy and people would lose their jobs as a result. The president believes that we can have economic growth and environmental enhancement," Fleischer said.
Greenhouse gas intensity
Bush's plan would cap power plant emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and mercury at an unspecified level, and allow businesses which fall below the caps to sell credits to larger businesses so those businesses could meet the new guidelines.
White House aides would not reveal more details of this part of the president's plan but said Bush is calling for the "largest reduction of power plant emissions in U.S. history."
Bush will also call for the voluntary 18 percent cut in greenhouse gas intensity, the ratio of greenhouse gas emissions to economic output, over 10 years.
Bush's plan would lower the rate of emissions from an estimated 183 metric tons per million dollars of gross domestic product in 2002 to 151 metric tons per million dollars of GDP in 2012.
The president's plan will include incentives for businesses to invest in cleaner technology and other incentives for businesses to voluntarily reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Bush will also call on Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham to develop a plan so that businesses that implement voluntary reductions of greenhouse gas emissions will not be penalized if climate policy is changed in the future.
"This provides the necessary guarantees to the private sector so it can pursue sensible greenhouse gas mitigation and sequestration strategies now, without the risk that future climate policy will penalize them and reward inaction by others," according to a White House fact sheet.
The fact sheet also says that if the United States does not meet its greenhouse gas goal by 2012 and "sound science justifies further policy action," the United States will respond with additional measures that may include other market-based reforms, incentives and voluntary measures.
Finally, Bush's plan includes $4.5 billion in his next year's budget for global climate change programs, a $700 million increase over this year's budget, according to the White House. This money includes the first year of funding for a five year, $4.6 billion program for tax credits for businesses pursuing renewable energy sources, the White House said.
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