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The BBC's Stephen Sackur in Washington
"Power or the lack of it lies at the heart of this policy shift"
 real 56k

Frank Maisano, Global Climate Coalition
"With Kyoto in place there was more than a disagreement between the US and the EU"
 real 28k

Philip Clapp, of the National Environmental Trust
"It looks as if global warming is going to be a Bush family legacy"
 real 56k

Margaret Wallstrom, EU Environment Minister
"The USA have the biggest problems and highest costs to remedy what has already been done"
 real 28k

Former Environment Minister, John Gummer
"We must not give way just because America tells us what to do"
 real 28k

Thursday, 29 March, 2001, 14:39 GMT 15:39 UK
US facing climate isolation
Mont Blanc glacier PA
Melting glaciers are seen as evidence of climate change
By BBC News Online's environment correspondent Alex Kirby

President Bush's decision to abandon the Kyoto Protocol, the international climate treaty, has dismayed governments around the western world.

But his decision will not halt work to ratify the protocol as a first step towards tackling climate change.

It looks probable that Kyoto will be ratified despite the US.

And that could seriously affect US business and industry.

Richard Boucher, a US State Department spokesman, made clear in a briefing Mr Bush's intention to remain "engaged" with the issue, which he is said to regard as "a serious problem" - but on his own terms.

Different approach

"The President, the administration, clearly opposed the protocol," Mr Boucher said. "We have given our reasons for that: it exempts developing countries; we think it might seriously harm the US economy.

John Gummer BBC
John Gummer: US business has great influence
"We are not working on the issue of un-signing; we are working on the issue of market-driven, technological and creative ways of addressing the issue of global climate change."

No-one quarrels with that as a key part of any strategy to prepare for a warmer world. But most politicians and scientists agree that technology will not be enough.

They believe it must complement Kyoto's approach - persuading countries to cut their emissions of the gases believed to be causing climate change.

Kyoto's first stage envisages average emission cuts of 5.2% on their 1990 levels by 39 industrialised countries. The US would have had to make cuts of 7%.

The treaty will come into effect when 55% of industrialised nations, responsible for 55% of the group's emissions, have ratified it.

And there is growing pressure among the protocol's supporters to ratify it with or without the US.

The EU environment commissioner, Margot Wallstrom, said: "The EU is committed to the protocol, and aims at getting it enforced by 2002.

"We are willing to discuss details and problems, but not to scrap the whole protocol. It is the platform we stand on."

Kyoto is a legal addition to the UN climate change convention, whose spokesman, Michael Williams, said: "We've read the reports about what the US doesn't want to do.

"Now we're waiting to hear what it does want to do. It will have a chance to tell the world at an informal ministerial meeting in late April."

The UK Environment Minister, Michael Meacher, told the BBC that Kyoto was "the only game in town . . . the European Union should still proceed to ratify it in 2002".

Honouring commitments

John Gummer, a former UK Environment Secretary, told BBC News Online: "You can't possibly just scrap Kyoto.

"And you can't have the US stamping all over the world saying it won't co-operate.

Sir Crispin Tickell PA
Sir Crispin Tickell wants a tax on US imports
"What you have to do is say 'We've made our commitments, and we're standing by them.'

"No-one wants to go ahead without the US, but if we have to we will.

"It's American business that will make the administration see sense, because the countries that do ratify will have the commercial edge over those that don't. There are huge markets for clean technology."

Import tax

Sir Crispin Tickell, former British ambassador to the UN and adviser to successive UK governments, told BBC News Online: "The US decision is very short-sighted, and a confession of weakness. Saying Kyoto would harm their economy just shows how inefficient it is.

"They're pleading protection for their own inefficiency. The other industrialised countries should certainly go on and ratify the protocol.

"And they should tell Mr Bush they'll apply a compensatory tax on US imports. That would make him think."

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See also:

07 Mar 01 | Sci/Tech
Bush 'serious on climate change'
24 Feb 01 | Sci/Tech
'Odds against' a climate deal
25 Nov 00 | Sci/Tech
Analysis: What next?
28 Mar 01 | Sci/Tech
US blow to Kyoto hopes
29 Mar 01 | Sci/Tech
Anger at US climate retreat
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