March 14, 2001 – The chances of finalising a global agreement to protect the world’s climate from global warming took a step backwards today. US President George Bush has abandoned plans to regulate emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, from United States power stations. The decision was revealed in a letter to senators released last night [1].

While not directly linked to the Kyoto Protocol, the move will seriously affect America’s ability to meet its emission reduction targets promised under the treaty. Switching power generation from coal to gas – from the dirtiest to the cleanest of fossil fuels – dramatically increases efficiency and leads to substantial cuts in carbon emissions. It should be used alongside developing renewable energy sources.

Following the collapse of international talks in The Hague last November, fresh negotiations are set to resume in Bonn, Germany, this July. But Friends the Earth warns that the latest American move will undermine international confidence in the USA to deliver on its promises.

Tony Juniper, Vice Chairman of Friends of the Earth International said: “President Bush’s decision sends a negative signal to the rest of the world about US willingness to curb pollution. The US has about 4 per cent of the world’s population but produces about a quarter of all global warming emissions. If the world is to avoid a catastrophe it is essential for the US to take a lead in tackling the profligate use of fossil fuels. The new Bush Administration has so far failed to make its position clear on climate ahead of the resumption of international talks later this year. Today’s news does not augur well. If America continues to do nothing, then ultimately it will lose out. Its people will suffer the damage of climate change. And its economy will lose out, as the rest of the world seizes the green business opportunities and produces new environmental technologies needed to protect the world’s atmosphere.”

1 President Bush’s letter to 4 Senators says “As you know, I oppose the Kyoto Protocol because it exempts 80 percent of the world, including major population centres such as China and India, from compliance, and would cause serious harm to the U.S. economy.”