Kyoto Deal Leaves US Isolated, Say Green Activists

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:09 PM EDT

London ( - Environmental activists Monday welcomed a last-minute deal to save the Kyoto Protocol on climate change despite American opposition, claiming the move left Washington isolated from the world community.

"This agreement is a geopolitical earthquake," said Jennifer Morgan of the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF). "Other countries have demonstrated their independence from the Bush Administration on the world's most critical environmental problem."

"The rest of the world has effectively rejected claims by President Bush that climate science is flawed and the costs of Kyoto implementation would be unacceptably high," WWF said.

A spokesperson for another organization, Friends of the Earth, saw the agreement as "a political disaster for Bush."

The U.S. president, said Kate Hampton, had "with the arrogance of power, thought that his decision to renege on Kyoto would be enough to kill it."

She was speaking after environmental ministers meeting in Bonn, Germany reached agreement after marathon negotiations, salvaging an agreement aimed at forcing industrialized nations to reduce their emission of pollutants blamed for "global warming"

Bush's decision to pull out of the agreement, which he said would harm the American economy, had raised concerns by many proponents that it may be doomed.

Differences had also emerged between Europe and Japan - named as the world's second largest "greenhouse gas" polluter after the U.S. - over the issue of how to enforce emission reduction targets.

Canada and Australia had also pushed for ways to soften the agreement's impact on their economies.

A compromise was eventually reached Monday, although green activists said the original protocol had been diluted as a result, with emission reductions likely to be lower than initially envisaged, and legal loopholes open to exploitation by signatory countries.

Greenpeace welcomed the resulting deal, but decried the fact Kyoto had been watered down, dubbing the resulting agreement "Kyoto-Lite."

"The European Union and developing countries have shown leadership in rescuing the Bonn negotiations from destruction at the hands of Japan, Canada and Australia," said Stephanie Tunmore, a climate campaigner for Greenpeace.

"Almost all parts of the agreement have been weakened due to the efforts of these countries," she said.

"Fossil fuel companies ... OPEC and of course, the United States also fought violently against it. They failed to kill off the Kyoto Protocol at the meeting in Bonn, but they came close, and what survives is a weaker version of the agreement than was adopted in Kyoto in 1997," Tunmore added.

Greenpeace called on the developed countries to move quickly toward ratifying the treaty, so it could come into force by September 2002.

"It's a brilliant day for the environment," UK environment minister Michael Meacher said, calling the achievement of a complex international agreement "a huge relief."

The environmental spokesman for Britain's opposition Conservative Party, Damian Green, said the government should work toward bringing the U.S. into the battle against climate change.

Without the U.S., Green said, the result was "clearly a second best deal, but a second best deal is better than no deal at all.

"The British government has a key role to play in trying to bring the United States on board and make the protocol more effective. We urge the government to come forward with positive proposals to achieve this."

At the weekend G-8 summit in Genoa, Bush reiterated the view that he shared a commitment to reduce "greenhouse gas" emissions, but believed the Kyoto Protocol was "fatally flawed."

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow