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Thursday, 14 February, 2002, 14:02 GMT
Q&A: The US and climate change
BBC News online looks at the main questions behind the United States approach to global warming and climate change.

Where does the US stand on global climate change?

In 2001 the United States provoked widespread international criticism by rejecting the Kyoto protocol on tackling climate change.

President George W Bush instead promised to unveil his own proposals for addressing the issue.

The US opposed Kyoto, and the Bonn agreement which refined it, because of the cost to US business of Kyoto's prescriptions on the reduction of environmentally harmful emissions which contribute to climate change.

US officials called Kyoto "fatally flawed", though all the governments of the major industrialised countries disagreed.

Click here for a detailed guide to global climate change.

What is President Bush expected to propose?

President Bush is expected to emphasise regulatory flexibility, voluntary actions by industry, the development of cleaner technologies and emissions allowance trading.

This last proposal allows, for example, the US to buy rights or credits to produce polluting carbon emissions from another country which would then forgo that right to make those emissions. Alternatively, a developed country might pay one in Africa to install renewable energy equipment.

None of these proposals is likely to find favour with environmentalists, or the governments that back Kyoto.

What is the rest of the world trying to do about global warming?

The Kyoto protocol of 1997, which was revised at the Bonn climate change conference in 2001, binds industrialised countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The US - the world's biggest polluter - has refused to ratify Kyoto. Some 178 countries including all the other major industrialised country have signed up to the Kyoto protocol.

The fact that the Kyoto agreement was ratified without the US was widely credited to the European Union, which made considerable compromises on carbon sinks - areas of forest and farmland which absorb carbon through photosynthesis - plus Japan, Canada and Russia.

It was hoped at the time that the slightly watered down provisions agreed at Bonn would allow the US to take up the Kyoto principles - but this has not proved to be the case.

Why has the US refused to go along with international efforts?

As the world's biggest polluter, no real dent in global warming can be made without the US.

The US contains 4% of the world's population but produces about 25% of all carbon dioxide emissions. By comparison, Britain emits 3% - about the same as India which has 15 times as many people.

The current US administration is refusing to change its position, and seems to be under little pressure at home to do so.

The cuts required by Kyoto would mean some fundamental changes in American lifestyle. US citizens tend to drive larger cars and make more frequent trips.

The average American produces six tonnes of carbon dioxide, the average Briton three tonnes, a Chinese 0.7 tonnes and an Indian 0.25 tonnes.

US industry is largely dependent on coal and oil, the fuels that produce the most carbon dioxide.

The argument in the US is that the Kyoto protocol would unfairly penalise Americans and the American economy.

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