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ANALYSIS - New US multilateralism won\'t stretch to Kyoto

16.10.2001
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ANALYSIS - New US multilateralism won\ t stretch to Kyoto
BRUSSELS - The United States\' quest to build an international coalition to fight terrorism is unlikely to make it adopt a multilateral approach to halt the threat of global warming, analysts said. President George W. Bush pulled out of the 1997 Kyoto treaty on climate change in March, saying the deal signed by his predecessor, Bill Clinton, would harm the U.S. economy. The United Nations accord commits industrialised countries to cut emissions of \"greenhouse gases\" - which are said to trap heat in the atmosphere, risking disastrous environmental consequences - by five percent of 1990 levels by 2010. By pulling out of the deal, Bush removed the world\'s biggest economy - the emitter of one quarter of the world\'s man-made greenhouse gases - from a system based on countries of the world acting in concert. At a meeting in Bonn in July, the rest of the world decided to push ahead with Kyoto in the hope the United States would return to the treaty in the near future. British Prime Minister Tony Blair, keen to be seen as Bush\'s closest ally in the war on terrorism, hinted that a new sense of multilateralism after the attacks could extend into other areas. \"The power of the international community\" gearing up to fight terrorism could be used to improve the environment, Blair told a Labour Party conference last week. DEFEAT \"We could defeat climate change if we chose to. Kyoto is right. We will implement it and call upon all other nations to do so,\" Blair added. But analysts said they could not imagine Bush returning to the Kyoto accord. \"One thing is clear, the United States will not re-join the Kyoto Protocol, this has not changed since September 11,\" Christian Egenhofer, an energy expert at the Centre for European Policy Studies, a Brussels thinktank, said. Egenhofer said it was now less likely than ever that the State Department would come up with an alternative plan for fighting climate change, which the United States had said it would put forward several months ago. \"Nobody expects a \'big idea\' any more...After Bonn what would be the point of a counter-proposal? Bonn was very clear - people said \'we have invested 10 years (negotiating Kyoto), we will stick with it\'.\" Belgian Energy Minister Olivier Deleuze, head of the EU delegation at Bonn and the next round of negotiations due in Marrakesh, Morocco, at the end of this month, agreed. \"I haven\'t even seen the first signs of a U.S. proposal,\" he said. SOLIDARITY Deleuze said the EU would not be pushing the United States to return to the Kyoto deal in Marrakesh, but it would press the rest of the world to move ahead regardless of the U.S. position. \"We might have total, unreserved solidarity with the United States in relation to the attacks, but that does not mean we would change our position on Kyoto.\" A U.S. government official said Washington would send a delegation to Marrakesh, as the United States remains a party to the 1992 U.N framework convention on climate change, the treaty which led to Kyoto five years later. \"The (U.S.) administration does not view the October negotiations as a deadline. It intends to continue exploring a wide range of domestic and international alternatives to the Kyoto Protocol,\" the official told Reuters. A cabinet-level review of the U.S. climate policy, instigated by Bush after the Kyoto pullout, was still under way, she added. For supporters of the U.N. deal, the fact no U.S. alternative will be on the table at Marrakesh is good news. Kyoto has still not come into legal force as it has not been ratified by the requisite number a countries. A weakening of resolve at Marrakesh could still undermine the Bonn compromise and a coherent U.S. alternative might still tempt some countries to back away from Kyoto. \"In the near future, climate change has pretty much slipped off the U.S. agenda. It isn\'t really possible to criticise the U.S. for that,\" Rob Bradley of environmental campaign group Climate Network Europe said. \"It does re-emphasise that for the time being the rest of the world needs to go it alone,\" he said. Story by Robin Pomeroy REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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