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Thursday, 14 February, 2002, 22:43 GMT
Bush climate plan will not silence critics
US President Bush
'A strong economy will protect the environment'
By the BBC's Jane Hughes in Washington

President George W Bush's new global warming policy is intended to show that while the United States is out of the Kyoto accord restricting emissions, it is not ignoring environmentalists' concerns.

The Kyoto agreement set firm targets and a short timetable for cutting emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

By 2012, the US would have had to cut its emissions to 7% less than its 1990 levels. Mr Bush says that would have cost this nation up to $400 billion, and 4.9 million jobs.

The president says his alternatives are a far better approach - tackling environmental problems without damaging the economy.

Voluntary targets

Mr Bush argues that a strong economy is the best way to deal with the issue of climate change, because growth provides the resources for investment in energy-saving technologies.

The plan takes a carrot, not a stick approach, providing $4.6 billion in tax credits over the next five years to encourage companies and individuals to limit their emissions.
President Bush has called for reductions in power plant emissions

People would be encouraged to buy low energy cars and solar power for their homes. Companies would be encouraged to use renewable energy.

It proposes emissions targets rather than fixed limits.

The measures would slow the rate of growth in greenhouse gases in relation to the growth of the economy - in other words, as long as the economy continued to expand, emissions levels would keep rising, though at a slower rate.

Mr Bush has also called for an emissions trading program, which would allow big polluters that exceed their emissions targets to buy "credits" from cleaner companies that produce fewer emissions than their target levels.

Though America produces about 25% of all greenhouse gases, it defends this as a reflection of the country's enormous output of goods and services - more than a quarter of the world's total.

The president believes there is too much uncertainty surrounding the science of climate change to justify more drastic action.

Critics unconvinced

But this plan will do little to silence Mr Bush's critics. Environmentalists say it means emissions levels here will continue to rise unremittingly.
Environment demonstration
Mr Bush's proposals will do little to silence critics of his dismissal of the Kyoto Protocol

"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 begin to level off, let alone put us on a downward path."

The president leaves for a trip to Asia on Saturday, and has been under pressure to present a response to the Kyoto accord before he arrives in Japan.

These proposals show that he is not ignoring environmental issues. He does not want to appear inflexible.

But however loud the chorus of critics speaking out against his rejection of the Kyoto accord, he is determined to show that America will go its own way on global warming policies.

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
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