Contacts: Jon Coifman, 202-289-2404 or 202-320-8026 (cell); Eben Burnham-Snyder, 202-513-6254 or 202-277-1045 (cell)
Bush Administration Set the Stage for Trouble in Treaty Talks, NRDC Says
WASHINGTON, DC (December 3, 2003) - The Russian government today said the Kremlin is moving toward ratification of the Kyoto global warming treaty, rebuffing remarks made yesterday by an economics aide. In an official statement today, deputy economy minister Mukhamed Tsikhanov denied that any decision has been made about the treaty, and said Moscow was still aiming to complete the accord.
"There are no decisions about ratification apart from the fact that we are moving towards ratification," Tsikhanov said, according BBC News. Similar remarks by Russian government spokesmen were also reported today in the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Times.
Comments yesterday by Andrei Illarionov, who is known for controversial statements about the treaty, caused a stir because of Russia's key role in the 1997 accord. For the deal to take effect, 55 countries responsible for 55 percent of worldwide global warming emissions must ratify it. So far, 120 nations have done so. But the Bush administration withdrew the U.S. from the pact in 2001, leaving Russia as the only industrial nation big enough to complete the arrangement.
"The Bush administration is trying to strong-arm the rest of the world into abandoning the treaty," said David Doniger, Climate Center policy director at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). "Instead, they are pushing an empty strategy of voluntary rules that put polluters in charge of pollution control, and telling other countries 'It's my way or the highway.'"
Earlier this week, the administration's chief emissary to global warming treaty talks now under way in Milan, Italy wrote an aggressive op/ed article in the Financial Times strongly urging other countries to reject the Kyoto treaty's mandatory limits on global warming pollution in favor of the voluntary, industry-backed policy favored by the White House.
"No serious pollution problem has ever been solved by voluntarism," Doniger said. "We need clean technologies to generate electricity and power our cars. But without concrete limits on emissions, industries will have no incentive to invest in and adopt the needed solutions."
Here at home, leaders in both political parties are calling for stronger action. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Joe Lieberman (D-CT) are moving forward with the Climate Stewardship Act, providing the first mandatory limits on U.S. global warming pollution. The bill earned 43 votes last month in the Senate, including six Republicans who broke with the Bush administration's do nothing approach. McCain and Lieberman have promised to bring it back for another vote next year.
Meanwhile new evidence continues to emerge showing the urgent need for global warming action. Last month, new data from NASA showed that the polar ice cap is melting at the alarming rate of nine percent per decade, while the journal Science reported that man-made emissions are primarily responsible for rising temperatures in North America during the last 50 years.
Science is scheduled to publish a paper this Friday by Dr. Thomas Karl of NOAA and Dr. Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research concluding that "in the absence of climate mitigation policies...the likely result is more frequent heat waves, droughts, extreme precipitation events and related impacts [such as] wildfires, heat stress, vegetation changes and sea-level rise."
The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 550,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.