AmeriScan: October 11, 2001

ZURICH, Switzerland, October 12, 2001 (ENS) - Last month's terrorist attacks on the United States have taught the Bush administration the importance of multilateral responses to global threats but are unlikely to alter its rejection of the Kyoto climate protocol, former climate policy chief Frank Loy said yesterday.


Frank Loy makes a point at a Clinton era climate negotiation. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotations Bulletin)
As former under secretary of state for global affairs, Loy led the U.S. delegations at climate talks during the Clinton administration.

Speaking at a high level climate conference organized by insurer Swiss Re, Loy said, "The events have forced the U.S. to realize we're more dependent on the help of others that we used to think. But it won't force a 180 degree turn."

Loy's comments follow growing speculation in some European capitals that the rapid formation of a world coalition behind America's fight against international terrorism might prove a useful lever to tempt the United States back into the Kyoto fold.

Shortly after his inauguration, President George W. Bush reversed the Clinton administration policy of support for the Kyoto Protocol which limits the emission of six greenhouse gases linked to global warming. Bush says the treaty is "fatally flawed."


President George W. Bush and Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, from the White House steps October 9, reiterate their joint commitment to fighting terrorism. (Photo courtesy )
The two day conference, "Reducing greenhouse gases anticipating tomorrow's drivers, opportunities and financial solutions," was held at Swiss Re's Centre for Global Dialogue in Ruschlikon, a town just outside of Zurich.

Organized in conjunction with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the Worldwide Fund for Nature, the gathering was aimed at encouraging dialogue between stakeholders that would enable businesses to find ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and solutions for reaching a sustainable climatic future.

In his keynote speech to Britain's ruling Labour party conference on October 2, Prime Minister Tony Blair earned loud applause by backing the Kyoto Protocol. "We will implement it and call on all other nations to do so," he said.

Interviewed by Reuters yesterday, UK Environment Minister Michael Meacher went further by making explicit what Blair had only implied, "Only the US stood out on Kyoto. Maybe the terrible events of September 11 will give it pause to remember its international obligations."


Prime Minister Tony Blair (Photo courtesy UK government)
With almost its entire body politic now focused on Afghanistan and threats of further terrorism at home, there was never likely to be an immediate American turn around on the Kyoto Protocol. This was confirmed earlier this month at a conference in London by the new Bush administration's senior climate negotiator Harlan Watson.

Watson reiterated the U.S.'s intention not to ratify the protocol. But he also restated a separate commitment not to impede other countries from ratifying the treaty.

Watson put an end to rumors that the United States might not attend the world climate summit in Marrakech, Morocco set to begin October 29. This meeting has the task of writing a detailed rulebook for the limitation of greenhouse gases by 38 industrialized nations.

While accepting there would be no policy "flip-flop" on America's part, Loy said the U.S. government had "put itself in a box" by the "abrupt and brutal" way it had dismissed what he called a "very good" global accord.

Critically, the former policy chief said it was now very unlikely that the United States would propose any international alternative to Kyoto. Though he didn't spell it out, this implies that the protocol will remain the "only game in town," strengthening its long term gravitational pull on any country remaining outside.


Maurice Strong, a senior advisor to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. (Photo courtesy Earth Charter)
At the conference, Maurice Strong, a Canadian who organized and chaired the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, noted that during the July 2001 Conference of the Parties in Bonn, Germany, more than 180 nations pledged their commitment to enact the Kyoto Protocol.

While the details of this clear statement of intent await finalization and ratification, the business community is already considering the ramifications and quantifying the economics of cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

"The future belongs to those who know how to manage the present," said Strong. "Those entities who are not investing in the environment and sustainability will not be able to catch up later."


{Published in cooperation with ENDS Environment Daily, Europe's choice for environmental news. Environmental Data Services Ltd, London. Email:}