U.S. helps block targets for cutting greenhouse emissions, ecologists say

November 06, 1990|By Peter Honey | Peter Honey,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- The United States -- and two other major oil-producing nations -- appear to have blocked efforts for an international accord for cutting greenhouse-effect emissions, environmentalists reported yesterday.

As a result, they said, when the Second World Climate Conference in Geneva ends tomorrow, the more than 120 participating nations will be able to issue a joint statement that proposes only to stabilize emissions of carbon dioxide and other global warming gases but sets no targets or dates for doing so.

The United States, supported by the Soviet Union and Saudi Arabia, forced European negotiators to water down the final statement of intent to exclude reference to specific targets, according to environmental groups monitoring the conference.

In an independent forum across town, meanwhile, representatives of 18 European countries agreed to freeze emissions of greenhouse gases -- including carbon dioxide, by far the most prevalent contributor to global warming -- by the year 2000.

"This leaves the United States isolated among the big economic powers as far as policy on global warming is concerned," said Rafe Pomerance, of the Washington-based World Resources Institute, in a telephone interview from Geneva.

The U.S. position, environmentalists said, was essentially the same as it was in the Netherlands last November, when the administration also refused to bind itself to international cuts on global warming. Its principal ally at the time, Britain, has since fallen basically into line with the Europeans.

But U.S. environmental groups were concerned that Washington's refusal to adopt a strategy against global warming -- while emitting almost one-quarter of the world's carbon dioxide -- would discourage developing nations from taking part in negotiations for an international treaty on global warming scheduled to be signed in Brazil in June 1992.

"This is definitely a setback for the negotiations. It's clear the Bush administration has no intention of budging on this," said Alden Meyer, director of the climate change and energy program of the Union of Concerned Scientists, in an telephone interview from Geneva.

An administration official said that "uncertainty about the effects of global warming and the economic impact of programs to reduce carbon emissions make it unfeasible at this time."

But in Geneva, 700 scientists issued a report that said reduction of greenhouse gases could actually save money and called for an immediate international program to reduce emissions.

Carbon dioxide, produced by burning, contributes to the "greenhouse effect" by preventing heat from escaping the earth's atmosphere.

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