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THE WORLD

Nations Adopt Climate Pact Without U.S.

Accord: Envoys from 180 lands salvage Kyoto Protocol on cutting 'greenhouse gases.' Some backers hope the move will spur Congress to act.

July 24, 2001|CAROL J. WILLIAMS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The fine print of the treaty will be completed here this week and distributed to delegates at a gathering in Morocco in October. The countries will then have to submit the pact to their parliaments for ratification. The treaty becomes a legally binding accord the year after 55 nations representing 55% or more of industrialized countries' emissions have ratified it.

Even after the protracted haggling, delegates couldn't say exactly why the deal was so contentious. Japan held out the longest, until the word "binding" was removed from a section calling for financial penalties for those failing to meet reduction targets. However, a potentially more costly provision for noncompliance--dramatically higher reduction quotas for the next phase, after 2012--was left unchanged.

Japanese Environment Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi won applause from colleagues grateful for the show of unanimity--minus the United States. She appealed to Washington to join the treaty, as did proponents from the 15-nation European Union.

"One country not playing the game is one too much," said the EU's chief negotiator, Olivier Deleuze of Belgium.

Passage of the protocol over Bush's objections could strengthen proponents of environmental legislation languishing in Congress.

"The more immediate effect [than swaying Bush] is going to put more impetus behind energy bills in Congress," said Jon Coifman, spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council. "The administration's mishandling of energy planning has provided a real springboard for getting rapid congressional debate going on fuel economy, which has been stagnating since 1982."

Philip Clapp, president of another Washington-based think tank, the National Environmental Trust, said the Kyoto accord "will fundamentally change the way the countries of the world approach energy generation and development for decades."

Formal adoption of the treaty was secured by Pronk's behind-the-scenes lobbying, then made official when he called for approval and no voices were raised in objection. Bush had promised European allies that he would not undermine the deal, and Dobriansky refrained from any lobbying against it.

The success was especially poignant for EU officials, who took up the cause of making the treaty a reality after Bush dropped it.

"We have rescued the Kyoto Protocol," said EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom. "We can go home and look our children in the eye and feel proud of what we have done."

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