BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in:  World: Americas
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Thursday, 14 February, 2002, 01:55 GMT
US plans Kyoto alternative
President Bush
President Bush says Kyoto would harm the US economy
By the BBC's Jane Hughes in Washington

President Bush is to announce how America plans to help cut global warming.

His rejection of the Kyoto treaty on reducing greenhouse gases was condemned around the world, and these proposals - due to be made public on Thursday - are intended to answer his critics.

But environmentalists say they will do little or nothing to help.

Watching the bottom line

A coal and oil-fired power station in Delaware, pumping out greenhouse gases, is the kind of place that earns the US its reputation as number one world polluter.

smoke from a power plant
US emissions have increased by 15% since 1990

The United States is responsible for a quarter of the world's total carbon dioxide emissions.

Coal-fired power plants are among the worst culprits. But the owners of this one have more of an eye on their bottom line than the environment.

Southern Company gave the Kyoto accord a big thumbs down and welcome Mr Bush's business-friendly alternative.

Ray Harry with the Southern Company echoes Bush administration concerns that higher prices in energy could harm the US economy.

"We think over the long term we can balance these competing objectives of protecting the environment and protecting our economic security and energy security with the right kind of policies," Mr Harry said.

So what might the new global warming plan offer?

  • Enforced limits on emissions may go - replaced by targets.
  • Big polluters who exceed those targets may be able to buy credits from cleaner companies.
  • And there will probably be a focus on new technology to cut greenhouse gas emissions without hitting profits.

Little chance of change

It is all music to the ears of the energy lobby.

Energy consultant Frank Maizano said, "You can make the most restrictive emissions cuts in the world, (but) if you put your economy in the toilet, it's all for naught."

Businesses like this one may be heaving a sigh of relief at the Bush alternatives to Kyoto. But his rejection of the accord sparked international condemnation. And his new proposals are unlikely to go far in silencing his critics.

In this famously gas-guzzling nation, with most journeys made by road, environmentalists say the White House approach is too little, too late.

"US emissions are 15% above 1990 levels," said Eileen Claussen of the Pew Centre for Global Climate Change. "They'll keep on going up. They certainly won't level us off, and they certainly won't put us on a downward path."

And if that is the case, there is not much chance of America losing its reputation as the planet's biggest polluter.

The BBC's Jane Hughes
"The US is responsible for a quarter of the world's CO2 emissions"
The BBC's Tim Franks in Washington
"The US can lead the world in the reduction of greenhouse gases"
See also:

14 Feb 02 | Americas
Q&A: The US and climate change
11 Jun 01 | Americas
Bush faces up to Kyoto critics
17 Jul 01 | Americas
Bush firm on Kyoto and missiles
02 Apr 01 | Americas
Bush urged to rethink Kyoto snub
30 Mar 01 | Americas
Kyoto: Why did the US pull out?
10 Nov 00 | Sci/Tech
Climate change glossary
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Americas stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Americas stories