The Kyoto Protocol is by no means a "mostly symbolic treaty," as a Nov. 6 editorial called it. If all countries -- including the United States -- lived up to the clean-air commitments negotiated in Kyoto, their emissions would drop nearly 20 percent by 2012. Global emissions would decrease by 10 percent. Even without the United States, the protocol could reduce emissions in industrialized nations by 6 percent. That is a significant first step.

True, China and India are not required to meet targets in the first commitment period. Negotiators understood that industrialized countries must show leadership by accepting and meeting emission targets first. Because most industrialized countries are participating in the protocol, developing countries likely will participate in the next round of reductions.

It also is far from clear that the costs to the United States of treaty compliance would have been "huge," as The Post asserted. Projections vary, but history suggests that costs would have been far below industry estimates. Efforts to curb acid rain, for example, cost a tenth what industry predicted.

Regarding sanctions, countries that exceed their targets must repay the excess during the next round plus a 30 percent penalty, a substantial compliance incentive. Of course, countries might evade the penalties, but Kyoto is hardly unique among international agreements in this respect.

As matters stand, no treaty will satisfy President Bush, because he has shown no interest in developing an effective response to global warming.


Senior Attorney



Center for International Environmental Law