Us Withdrawal And Cop Part Ii

Bush first announced on 13 March 2001 that he would back away from requiring domestic regulation of CO2 emissions from power plants, on the grounds that CO2 was not a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. In a letter to Senators Hagel, Helms, Craig and Roberts on 15 March, he stated that he opposed the Kyoto protocol because it exempted '80 per cent of the world, including major population centres such as China and India, from compliance and would cause serious harm to the US economy'. He also referred to 'the incomplete state of scientific knowledge of the causes of, and solutions to, global climate change and the lack of commercially available technologies for removing and storing carbon dioxide'. Bush was responding to a letter from these Senators which explicitly mentioned the paper by Hansen et al. (2000), which suggested that other, non-CO2 options might be preferable to Kyoto.

The German Environment Ministry at this time was threatening to proceed with ratification without the USA (Reuters, 15 March 2001) and soon had that opportunity. On 28 March, Bush stated his opposition to Kyoto, stating that it was not in the United States' 'economic best interest', and pointing to the lack of commitments by developing countries. The US Administration did not, however, seek to withdraw its signature from Kyoto, but rather did what the Clinton Administration had refused to do: it stated that it would not submit the Protocol to the Senate for ratification. Politically, it would have been easier to submit the Protocol for ratification and allow the Senate to kill it, but by not submitting Bush has actually left open the option of doing so at some future date. Bush was to meet in Washington the next day with German Chancellor Schroeder, who only a week earlier had urged the USA to abide by the agreement (Reuters, 28 March 2001). In addition to Schroeder, European Commission President Romano Prodi and the Prime Minister of Sweden (which then held the EU presidency), Goran Persson, also wrote to Bush, going so far as to state that the issue was an integral part of EU-US relations (Reuters, 23 March 2001). (France had held the EU presidency in the second half of 2000, which meant that Green minister Dominique Voynet had carriage of the issue. In the first half of 2001, the presidency rotated to environmental vanguard state Sweden, but by the time of COP-6 Part II in Bonn, the presidency had passed to the more moderate Belgium.)

This unusual step of elevating Kyoto to a level usually reserved for trade or defence issues was clearly ineffective, if not counterproductive, although British Prime Minister Tony Blair subtly linked climate change to EU support in the battle against terrorism after the World Trade Center attack on 11 September. It remained to be seen whether the USA would take the hint and what any concessions might be. Canadian Environment Minister David Anderson laid the blame for the US decision at the door of the EU: 'The problem was the rigid position of the Europeans who thought they could force the Americans to do something they knew the Americans couldn't do' (Reuters, 31 March 2001). The EU very quickly ruled out any possibility of trade sanctions against the USA as a result, as environmental groups organized boycotts against US oil companies, which were widely seen as having orchestrated the decision, a $1.2 million contribution to the Bush campaign from Exxon-Mobil frequently being cited as significant.

The withdrawal of the USA diminished the prospects for the entry into force of Kyoto, but also elevated Japan to a key role, thanks to the trigger being not just ratification by 55 parties, but also that ratification by Annex I parties should account for 55 per cent of 1990 emissions. This measure had been crafted so as to prevent any two Annex I parties from blocking entry into force. The USA accounted for 36 per cent of 1990 Annex I emissions, the EU 24.2 per cent and Japan 8.5 per cent. If Russia joined the EU, Switzerland, Estonia, Latvia and Norway in ratifying, this group would account for 49.7 per cent of 1990 emissions, Japan's ratification would raise it to 58.25 per cent and the Protocol would enter into force.

By early April, the EU was indicating that Kyoto could be renegotiated to suit the USA (Reuters, 7 April 2001). But despite high-level talks on the issue in May, the EU and USA could find no compromise (Reuters, 23 May 2001). The EU then began to court Japan heavily, knowing that its support was crucial to rescuing Kyoto without the USA, especially as Italy under new Premier Silvio Berlusconi was beginning to weaken EU unity on the issue. It also sent delegations to Australia and Canada. Japan, which was under potental domestic political pressure because it had parliamentary elections on 29 July, was initially offered (in April) a deal which would allow only 0.8 per cent of its 6 per cent Kyoto target to be met by sinks, whereas it wanted 3.7 per cent. The USA was given a generous provision, which would have required only 2.8 per cent of its 7 per cent target to be met through non-sink measures in Pronk's proposal, which the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) estimated would reduce the cuts required by Annex I parties to only 2 per cent (Kyodo News, 18 April 2001). By the end of June Russia, too, wanted a more generous provision for sinks in line with the concession extended to Japan by Pronk (Reuters, 28 June 2001).

The EU attempted to split the Umbrella Group (USA, Japan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan), taking advantage of differences between it members. Japan had some 'face' invested in the Kyoto outcome, but while it was chastising the USA for its withdrawal, it did little pending a lead from the USA. Russia and Ukraine both had the prospect of large economic gains (theoretically perhaps as much as $5 billion per annum for Russia) through emissions trading disappear if Kyoto failed, so they were open to suggestions that ratification go ahead in 2002 even without the USA. The problem was whether, without the USA in the system, there would be a buyer for Russian credits (Moscow Times, 16 May and 18 May 2001). In October 2001, this prospect clearly worried negotiators preparing for COP-7 in Marrakesh, for supply remained high, and without the USA prices would fall - an advantage for Europe perhaps, but would Russia sell or hold awaiting a possible US return and higher prices? In the end, at Marrakesh Russia and Japan were able to extract substantial concessions in return for likely ratification, with Russia able to double its allowances for the use of sinks.

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