For the Bush administration, the answer to that question has been clear
since 2001: "No." However, simply saying "No" to Kyoto seems to be a more and more difficult position to maintain for the White House. It does
seem like the Bush Administration is being pressured on all sides: U.S.
states and cities, leaders of the G8 and even members of the Republican
Party are calling for action on climate change.
So far, Bush's response to this criticism has been a lot of hot air, and
unfortunately the announcement made yesterday morning in Thailand is no
exception. This so-called "Vision statement" has no specific objectives
in terms of reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing
global warming. There are no indications of how this mechanism would
work, or how much money is going to be invested in it, and the
technological options proposed would please even the most anti-Kyoto
forces in the world - like Mr. Bush's buddies at Exxon.
On the other hand, the answer to the question above should be equally
clear to the 152 countries that have ratified the Kyoto Protocol: Kyoto
has to be the only game in town. Why? Because it is the only global
agreement with targets and timetables to reduce greenhouse gas
emissions, because it took about a decade to negotiate and clarify all
the rules, and finally because thanks to the Kyoto agreement countries
around the world are starting to reduce their emissions. Countries
should know that the minute we start signing side deals with only a
handful of countries and where anybody can choose to do what they want
to do, the global effort to tackle climate change becomes seriously
compromised. And if I were paranoid, I'd say that's exactly what the
White House is trying to do.
I can just imagine Canadian Environment Minister, StÃ©phane Dion, and our
Prime Minister, Paul Martin, waking-up to news of this new agreement
this morning, and being rather unhappy with their U.S. counterparts. After
all, the vast majority of Canadians take great pride in the fact that we
ratified Kyoto despite the Bush administration's refusal to do so.
Not only that, but Canadian officials are hard at work preparing the
next United Nations meeting on climate change, which is set to take
place in Montreal at the end of November. This meeting will be one of
the most important one since Kyoto in 1997. It's the first meeting of
Conference of Parties (countries that have signed and ratified the 1992
Rio Convention on climate change â" which includes the U.S.) to ever take
place in North America, and it's objective is to prepare for the next
steps after Kyoto.
For the Canadian government, and most of the countries that have
ratified Kyoto, the new U.S. lead initiative is nothing less than a slap
in the face. Then again, it wouldn't be the first time. In 2001 when the
U.S. announced it was pulling out of Kyoto, Christine Todd Whitman was
attending a conference on the Kyoto Protocol with some 34 other
ministers of the environment from all over the Americas (that conference
was held in Montreal and hosted by Canadian Environment Minister of the
time, David Anderson). It seemed Whitman failed, or maybe just forgot,
to mention to anybody at the meeting, including Minister Anderson, the
fact that the White House was pulling out of Kyoto. Clearly, he was not
But in July of the same year the rest of the world united and refused to
let the Bush Administration 'kill' this important international
agreement. We hope that this effort can be repeated, and that the U.S.
administration can be convinced to take meaningful action and come back
All of that being said, Mr. Bush and I do agree on one point, Kyoto
won't cut it. Unfortunately, the convergence stop's there. For those of
us concerned about climate change, Kyoto is only the beginning, since
industrial countries must reduce emissions up to 80 percent by
mid-century (compared to 1990) in order to avoid dangerous climate change.
Steven is a Greenpeace Canada climate campaigner who joined us on July
25th. He has
been fielding calls from Canadian press over the satellite phone about
the global warming "Vision Statement" released by the White House. After Greenland, the ship will go to Canada.