President Clinton's long-awaited announcement on how to combat global warming has met with bitter disappointment in many nations.
European Commission spokesman Peter Jorgenson in Brussels termed Mr. Clinton's proposal "plain and simple, not good enough." The US plan, announced by Clinton Wednesday, would give the world's industrialized countries until between 2008 and 2012 to cut greenhouse-gas emissions to 1990 levels. That represents an 8-to-12-year slip from targets set in 1992 at the UN environmental summit in Rio de Janeiro.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is meeting in Bonn through Oct. 31 to negotiate a legally binding agreement on greenhouse gases. Scientists says these gases, such as carbon dioxide, trap solar heat within the earth's atmosphere and disrupt weather patterns. The agreement is to be finalized at a meeting in Kyoto, Japan, in December. The negotiators here have been waiting for the US, the 800-pound gorilla on this issue, to announce its proposed goals.
The 15 member countries of the European Union have offered 15 percent cuts from 1990 levels by 2010, with an interim target of 7.5 percent by 2005.
Mark Hambley, head of the American delegation here, insisted yesterday afternoon that the Clinton proposals "represent an advance from 1992, not a retreat." US officials argue that their goal is to set "realistic, achievable, and binding" targets - and reject other proposals as "aggressive statements" that may not translate into reality.
Only Japan, host of the final summit, gave a mildly positive nod to the US plan.
Not that the EU position has been without critics. For one thing, the EU proposes meeting its target by letting cuts in some member states compensate for allowed increases in others - a 40 percent increase in Portugal, for instance. A key to meeting the EU targets, observers say, is the fact that Britain is switching from coal to gas heat and that highly polluting industrial facilities in eastern Germany will be shut down.
"These are very positive steps," says an American diplomat in Europe, "but [the Europeans] do funny things with the numbers."
Another point of tension is the question of whether and how to include developing countries in the effort against climate change. Their share of global emissions is small but growing. The US - influenced by its oil lobby, critics charge - has argued that the prospective agreement must include participation by developing countries.