Story by Alister Doyle and Jeffrey Jones
CANADA: November 30, 2005
MONTREAL - The United States ruled out making extra pledges to fight global warming beyond 2012 on Tuesday, angering environmentalists who accused Washington of blocking a 189-nation conference in Canada.
Chief US climate negotiator Harlan Watson also strongly defended President George W. Bush's environmental record, saying emissions by the world's biggest polluter had fallen more in 2000-2003 than in the European Union.
Up to 10,000 delegates are meeting in Montreal, Canada, from Nov. 28-Dec. 9 to discuss new ways to fight a build-up of gases released mainly from burning fossil fuels in factories, power plants and cars.
"The United States is opposed to any such discussions," Watson told a news conference of Canadian proposals to launch talks under the UN's climate convention about new actions to combat global warming beyond 2012.
Environmentalists accused Washington of doing too little to fight a rise in temperatures from human activities that could lead to more storms, expanding deserts and worse floods, and could raise sea levels by up to three feet (one metre) by 2100.
Bill Hare, climate policy director of Greenpeace, called the United States the "fly in the ointment" at the conference. "The failure of the United States to be willing to discuss future action here is the real issue," he said, predicting Washington will only join a global pact after Bush leaves office.
Bush pulled out in 2001 of the UN's Kyoto Protocol, under which about 40 industrial nations have to cut greenhouse gas emissions by about 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 1008-12.
At Montreal, Kyoto backers plan to launch talks, likely to last several years, on new commitments beyond 2012. Bush branded Kyoto too costly and said it wrongly excluded poor countries.
Many also hope to start wider parallel talks among all countries, including the United States and developing nations such as China and India, on new ways to fight climate change.
"We hope to start a dialogue" among all 189 nations, said Sarah Hendry, head of the British delegation which holds the rotating EU presidency. She said that new tougher measures were urgently needed to combat rising temperatures.
And British Prime Minister Tony Blair said in a speech earlier on Tuesday that he believed that all major economies would sign up for a binding accord to succeed Kyoto.
But Watson reiterated that Washington had no plans to adopt Kyoto-style caps on emissions and rejected environmentalists' predictions that the US was dooming the conference to failure.
"I don't know why it's doomed," he said. "There's more than one way to approach climate change.
"Look at the data -- the United States has done better in the first three years of the Bush administration in addressing greenhouse gas emissions than the EU ... the UK, France, Germany.
"I can go down the laundry list for you. I reject the premise that a Kyoto-like agreement is necessary to address the issue," he said of emissions between 2000-03. Washington is investing heavily in new technology like hydrogen.
Still, UN data show the United States is doing worse than all the nations named by Watson in the longer term. US emissions were 13.3 percent above 1990 levels in 2003 -- while the EU average in the same period was a fall of 1.4 percent.
Outside the conference, activists dressed as trees, insects and birds marched to call for the protection of rainforests.
"It would be nice if the US would step up and start to take some action," said Ben Matchstick, a US organizer dressed as a bird.