U.S. Urges Binding Accord on Global Warming

By Gary Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 17, 1996

The Clinton administration announced yesterday that it is seeking the adoption of a binding agreement requiring the world's industrial nations to reduce the levels of industrial emissions that are contributing to global warming.

Undersecretary of State Timothy E. Wirth, appearing at an international conference on climate change in Geneva, outlined a proposal that would establish goals for reducing emissions of "greenhouse gases" -- pollutants from smokestacks and tailpipes that scientists have identified as a major contributor to global warming -- and would require industrial nations to meet those goals. The details of the plan should be worked out by the end of next year, Wirth said.

The proposal represents a departure from current administration policy, which relies on factories and utilities to introduce voluntary measures to cut overall emissions of greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by the year 2000.

"If you look at where we've gotten so far, we're going to miss those targets," Wirth said in a telephone interview from Geneva. "It seems to us that a voluntary approach doesn't do it."

Of the leading signatories of the 1992 Climate Change Treaty, which established the target emissions-reduction levels, only Great Britain and Germany are expected to meet the goals by 2000. The United States, the world's largest consumer of fossil fuels, is expected to reach only 7 to 10 percent above the 1990 target at the end of the century, Wirth said.

The U.S. proposal is designed as an endorsement of a major report released late last year by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The U.N.-appointed body of scientists concluded that there is significant evidence Earth's temperatures are rising and that "greenhouse emissions" caused by human activity are a key contributor to the increase.

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