Judging from some of the statements from European leaders at the Bonn conference, it seems that US withdrawal from the Kyoto process earlier this year was more a prod than a setback. Those who remained - most of the developed world - were determined to pull it off. And pull it off they did (see story page 1). The Europeans bowed to demands they had previously resisted, such as allowing countries to partially meet their emissions-reduction targets by figuring in the effects of carbon-absorbing forests. That helped bring Canada, Japan, and Russia aboard. Developing countries such as China and India were given the large aid fund they have wanted to acquire antipollution technology. So the controversial Kyoto Protocol appears set to move toward ratification. Fifty-five signatures will be needed, representing 55 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Now that the final rules have been settled on, the industrialized giants of Europe and Asia will presumably ratify. But the biggest player with the most emissions, the US, is on the sidelines. Actually, not quite. The Bush administration has been going out of its way to say that it, too, believes global warming is a serious problem. The president has pledged to work with other nations to solve it. Steps like tougher emissions standards for vehicles in the US could lend credibility to those words. And the US may yet find a way back into the Kyoto process. The compromises made at Bonn moved in Washington's direction, too. President Bush would be wise to steer the US toward convergence with the rest of the world on this issue.
The countries gathered in Bonn to put finishing touches on the Kyoto Protocol on climate change made two ringing points: (1) that the environmental threat from greenhouse gases looms large enough to compel international action, and (2) that such action would move ahead whether Washington joined in or not.
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor