Harlan Watson, senior climate
negotiator for the U.S. State Department, speaks to reporters at a press
conference during the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Montreal,
Nov. 29, 2005. (AP PHOTO/CP/Ryan Remiorz)
The United States came under renewed criticism Tuesday as thousands
of environmentalists and international officials hammered out rules for a global
treaty to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
U.S. comments that it would resist any binding commitment to curb global
warming by capping industrial emissions infuriated environmentalists, who accused
Washington of trying to derail the U.N. Climate Change Conference.
"When you walk around the conference hall here, delegates are
saying there are lots of issues on the agenda, but there's only one real problem,
and that's the United States," said Bill Hare of Greenpeace International.
More than 8,000 environmentalists, scientists and government officials were
attending the 10-day conference in Montreal. Some 120 environment ministers
and other government leaders were expected to arrive next week for the final
The conference is the first meeting of the 140 countries that ratified the
Kyoto Protocol since the agreement was adopted in 1997. It is aimed at setting
agreements on emissions cuts planned after 2012, when the second phase of the
The Kyoto agreement targets carbon dioxide and five other heat-trapping gases
blamed for rising global temperatures and disrupted weather patterns. It calls
on the top 35 industrialized nations to cut emissions to 5.2 percent below their
1990 levels between 2008 and 2012.
The United States, the world's largest emitter of polluting gases, has refused
to ratify the agreement, saying it would harm the U.S. economy and is flawed
by the lack of restrictions on emissions by emerging economies such as China
and India. President Bush called for an 18 percent reduction of U.S. greenhouse
gases by 2012 and has committed $5 billion a year on science and technology
to combat global warming.
Harlan Watson, chief climate control negotiator for the U.S. State Department,
told a news conference that Washington would maintain its position of rejecting
any calls for an international agreement that binds countries to emissions reductions
Watson said the United States would continue voluntary efforts to curb global
warming via science, technology and bilateral agreements with other nations.
He said greenhouse gas emissions had gone down nearly 1 percent in Bush's first
three years in office.
"We need to pursue our international efforts in a spirit of cooperation
— not coercion — with a true sense of partnership," Watson
Watson told The Associated Press in an interview Monday that the Bush administration
does not blame global warming or climate change for extreme weather —
including the hurricanes that ravaged the Gulf Coast states and much of the
Caribbean and Yucatan Peninsula.
"There's a difference between climate and extreme weather," Watson
said. "Our scientists continually tell us we cannot blame any single extreme
event, attribute that to climate change."
This notion infuriates environmentalists, who point to myriad studies that
they believe prove global warming is to blame for rising, warmer seas, melting
Arctic glaciers and extreme weather conditions.
Environmentalists are pushing host Canada to round up industrialized nations
for some sort of political agreement by the end of the conference which commits
them to further goals and potential greenhouse gas cuts in the new phase of
the Kyoto Protocol, which begins in 2013.
Canada's Environment Minister Stephane Dion said Monday that he would "welcome
any idea" to get the United States on board.
"We cannot do without the Americans because they represent 25 percent
of emissions, and an even greater percentage of the solution," he said.