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US stands firm on Kyoto rejection despite Russian move to ratify treaty
WASHINGTON (AFP) Sep 30, 2004
The United States on Thursday stood firm in rejecting the Kyoto Protocol on global warming despite renewed pressure to yield after Russia ended years of hesitation by moving to ratify the treaty.

The State Department had no comment on the decision by the Russian cabinet to submit the document to the Duma for approval but said Washington remained committed in its own way to battling climate change.

"The United States' position on the Kyoto Protocol has not changed," spokesman Richard Boucher said. "We thought at this point it wasn't the right thing for the United States, but it's up to other nations to independently evaluate whether ratification is in their national interest."

Russia's ratification is vital for transforming Kyoto from a draft 1997 agreement into a working international treaty. Moscow had for years hedged on whether it would approve the pact.

The protocol requires industrialized signatories to trim output of six "greenhouse" gases by 2008-2012 compared with their 1990 levels. To achieve that, they will have to cut the burning of oil, coal and gas, the carbon-bearing sources that sparked the Industrial Revolution, and remain the foundation for economic life today.

Those changes carry an economic tab to consumers, a threat to vested interests and a challenge to lifestyles. Kyoto has run into fierce crossfire from the oil lobby and from conservatives like US President George W. Bush.

The United States, which by itself accounts for a quarter of global carbon pollution, walked away from Kyoto in 2001, saying the pact was too costly and unfair because developing countries are not bound to make specific pollution cuts.

Without the United States on board, the overall reduction in emissions is likely to be 0.6 percent if Kyoto is honoured, well below the initial target of 5.2 percent, according to the US-based environment group World Resources Institute.

Washington has opted instead for its own efforts to curtail global warming, which include domestic initiatives to move to alternative energy sources and international programs to boost research and cooperation on combating climate change.

Boucher noted that despite its rejection of the Kyoto Protocol, the Bush administration was still an active participant on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Kyoto's parent.

"President Bush has reaffirmed our commitment to that treaty and we are carrying out climate change initiatives," he told reporters.

"We're working on all these efforts with other partners in both the developed and developing world in order to make our own contribution to preventing climate change," Boucher said.

He noted that the Duma had not yet acted on ratification although analysts believe its approval by Russian lawmakers is likely.

Moscow holds the swing vote on the protocol, making ratification by the Russian parliament the only bar to the treaty coming into force.

Russia had delayed a decision on the treaty for years as its weighed its own economic policies against the diplomatic benefits of allying itself closer to the United States or to Europe, the protocol's biggest fan.

Supporters of the treaty seized on the Russian move to challenge Washington to reverse its longstanding position or risk further isolation in the global environmental debate.

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