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By Eija Rissanen, Student Life editor

 

The Kyoto Agreement, produced at a 1997 United Nations summit in Kyoto, Japan, is the first legally binding global agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.However, even though the Kyoto Agreement offers an opportunity for nations to cooperate to develop technologies to resist global climate change, Bush has insisted that the United States will act alone, and he refused to bring the Kyoto Agreement, signed by the United States in 1998, to the Senate for ratification.

Bush claims that the Kyoto Agreement will significantly harm the U.S. economy, and that it pressured developed countries to cut back their emissions while it simultaneously allowed developing countries to increase theirs.

Independent economic analyses do not support Bush’s claim that the United States will suffer economic hardship because of the Kyoto Agreement. One analysis, prepared by the White House Council of Economic Advisors and released by the Clinton Administration in 1998, found, that the cost of applying the Kyoto Agreement would be less than 60 percent of the estimated costs if the U.S. engaged to trade emissions with other countries. With such trading, the cost of U.S. participation in the Kyoto Agreement would be less than 1 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) in 2010, the same analysis concluded.

Another study, prepared by five Department of Energy national laboratories, found that simply by promoting policies to increase energy efficiency, the U.S. would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to levels as required by the Kyoto Agreement. Increased energy efficiency could also potentially improve U.S. economic performance in the future, according to Wikipedia.

Another economic analysis, prepared by the Congressional Budget Office and the Department of Energy Information Administration under the Clinton Administration, demonstrated a potentially large decline in the GDP under the Kyoto Agreement. However, this analysis did not consider the emission reductions achieved through energy efficiency or the possibility of emission trades with other signed countries supporting the Kyoto Agreement.

The Bush Administration has not done any analyses of its own to prove its claim of significant economic burden when either the Kyoto Agreement or domestic policies are used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Wikipedia reported.

In addition to economic reasons, the Bush Administration accuses the Kyoto Agreement of being unfair to developed countries by forcing them to take the initiative in environmental protection. Bush seems willfully unmindful of the reality that the developed countries are the logical main actors, as they produced, according to the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC), more than 75 percent of the accumulated greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere to date.

When the Kyoto Agreement was drawn in 1997, developing countries, such as China and India, were exempt from it. They only needed to set voluntary limits to greenhouse gas emissions. Many developing countries have succeeded in reducing their greenhouse gas emissions through improved transportation, forestry, and other policies. Emissions in China have dropped more than 17 percent since 1997, NRDC reported, while greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase in the United States.

The United States is the largest greenhouse gas producer, and the only country that backed out of the Kyoto Agreement after signing it. There is some justification for its action, though not an environmental one.

In July 1997, before the Kyoto Agreement was negotiated, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Byrd-Hagel Resolution prohibiting the United States from being a signatory to any agreements that do not bind developing countries as well as developed countries or that would harm the U.S. economy. Vice President Al Gore’s signing of the Kyoto Agreement in November 1998 is considered a clear violation of the Byrd-Hagel Resolution.

Neither President Clinton nor President Bush brought the Kyoto Agreement to the U.S. Senate for ratification. In addition, President Bush has not introduced any alternative plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions within the same time and with the same reduction goals as the Kyoto Agreement.
Governments and environmentalists around the world are not the only ones opposing the environmental policies set by the Bush Administration. Many American companies are taking steps to cut greenhouse gas emissions, even without government involvement, reported a new study from the Sustainable Energy Institute and Numark Associates, an environmental consulting group. The companies that are doing so are aware of the possible public image benefits of being seen as environmentally friendly.

 

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