Europe Says Kyoto Deal Must Be Saved

By Maria Kalafati | July 7, 2008 | 8:09 PM EDT

Athens, Greece ( - European Union countries are hoping two weeks of talks in Bonn, Germany will salvage an international agreement aimed at combating "global warming" despite what they see as U.S. attempts to kill the agreement.

President Bush last March renounced the Kyoto Protocol as "fatally flawed," because he said, it would damage U.S. economic interests.

The EU is angry that the U.S. is not only itself opposed to Kyoto, but is also trying to persuade others to back away. The agreement requires industrialized nations to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other "greenhouse gases" blamed for climate change.

"Why should we let the least ambitious countries define the pace and the content?" asked Margot Wallstrom, the EU's commissioner in charge of environmental issues. "It is important to show the public that we can reach an agreement, even without the United States.

"They are putting pretty heavy pressure on their partners," Wallstrom charged of the Americans.

"We were relying on a promise by the Americans not to obstruct the Kyoto process," she said. "This might be a matter of definition of what obstruction means, but we can see that the Americans are clearly putting heavy pressure on their partners ... to kill Kyoto."

It was difficult for Europeans to comprehend the Bush administration's refusal to lead the campaign against global warming when the U.S. produces more than 25 percent of the world's greenhouse gases, while representing only 4 percent of its population, Wallstrom complained.

She has been alarmed to find during visits to Japan and Australia that they are reluctant to proceed with Kyoto unless the U.S. goes along.

Bush this week travels to Europe for the G-8 summit in Genoa, where he is expected to come under sustained pressure from the British, French and German leaders to relax his stance on Kyoto.

"Any attempt to prevent this internationally crucial agreement from getting underway in Bonn and making it ratifiable for everyone would be a serious political mistake," German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said at the weekend.

Other EU member states are in agreement. "Climate protection goes across the political spectrum," said Greek Prime Minister Kostas Simitis earlier this week. "The Kyoto Protocol must be saved."

A recent study by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that the 1990s were probably the hottest decade in history. It predicted that sea levels could rise by up to three feet in the next 100 years because of increasing temperatures.

Many scientists attribute these changes to an increase in the emission of "greenhouse gases," while other experts disagree.