Envoy: U.S. Greenhouse Gas Growth Slowing
WASHINGTON The chief U.S. negotiator on global warming acknowledged Wednesday the nation's glacial pace in reducing greenhouse gases and said even that might not continue in the future.
"One can argue whether it's slowing down fast enough, but it is slowing down," Harlan Watson, a State Department special envoy, told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. "We're doing better than business as usual. That's the president's goal."
Business as usual allows the United States to release into the air each year about 6.6 million tons of carbon dioxide, methane and other gases scientists blame for heating the atmosphere like a greenhouse -- a quarter of the world's total emissions.
Sens. Thomas Carper, D-Del., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, likened the U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to a car that should first slow down, stop, then reverse course.
"When is the year we're going to be able to say, 'The car is stopped?' Carper asked Watson.
Watson answered that the administration was ahead of its goal for slowing the growth rate in emissions, "but I can't guarantee it's going to continue."
Emissions are growing at the rate of about 1.5 percent a year, despite the administration's voluntary climate change policies.
By itself, that growth rate is expected to drop to about 1.3 percent by 2012 as industries adopt newer and cleaner technology. President Bush aims to decrease the growth rate to about 1.2 percent.
That would result in 1.8 million tons fewer such gases over the next seven years, according to administration figures.
By signing on to the United Nations-brokered Kyoto Protocol, industrialized nations commit themselves to cutting their collective emissions of carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases to 5.2 percent below 1990 levels.
Only a few nations such as Britain and Sweden are on track. John Bruton, the European Union's ambassador to the United States, told the Senate committee in a letter Wednesday that the 15 EU nations had collectively cut their emissions to 2.9 percent below 1990 levels.
But he said the EU remains "right on track" to meet its goal of an 8 percent reduction, because it will use the global carbon market. Such trading lets those who make more cuts than required sell unused allowances to others.
Shortly after taking office, President Bush rejected the Kyoto accord that was negotiated by his Democratic opponent in the 2000 election, former Vice President Al Gore.
The accord emphasizes the need to develop technologies that cut emissions and capture carbon but Bush said it would cost the U.S. economy $400 billion and almost 5 million jobs while excluding China and India from its requirements.
Watson said he expected China and India to keep rejecting the notion of making cuts for many years.
The Senate panel's chairman, Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., rejected not only the treaty itself but also the Bush administration's acknowledgment that pollution is contributing to global warming.
"Even if humans were causing global warming -- and we are not -- but even if we were, Kyoto would do nothing to avert it," Inhofe said.
Source: Associated Press