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Senate Republicans Call Kyoto Pact Dead

By Helen Dewar and Kevin Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, December 11, 1997; Page A37

The difficulty delegates to the global warming conference in Kyoto encountered in reaching agreement on reducing greenhouse gases is likely to pale beside the trouble Republicans have promised the Clinton administration when it seeks ratification of the newly negotiated international treaty.

As finalized early this morning, Japanese time, the Kyoto accord calls for industrialized nations to cut their greenhouse emissions by 6 percent to 8 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. It left aside until at least next year the contentious issue of how much developing countries would be required to cut their own emissions.

Hours before the final agreement was reached, however, key Senate Republicans declared the accord "dead on arrival," and a leading Democratic supporter urged that the Senate delay a vote in light of its bleak prospects.

Sen. Larry E. Craig (Idaho), head of the Republican Policy Committee, told reporters here that the treaty is "designed to give some nations a free ride, it is designed to raise energy prices in the United States and it is desigened to perpetuate a new U.N. bureaucracy to manage global resource allocation." It also would undermine the recent reform of farm programs and threaten U.S. agricultural production, warned Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.).

Rejecting Democratic proposals to postpone consideration of the accord, Craig called on President Clinton to "promptly submit the treaty and allow the Senate to kill it." Even if the administration delayed submitting it for ratification -- perhaps until a developing countries treaty can be reached next year -- Craig said he expects the Senate will act on its own to declare its opposition to the pact, serving notice in advance that the United States will not ratify it. Ratification requires a two-thirds vote in the Senate.

The comments of Craig and other Republican leaders were made at a news conference called yesterday to denounce what they had heard about the emerging agreement. Judging from what they had learned from congressional observers in Kyoto, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Frank H. Murkowski (R-Alaska) said, "It's dead on arrival."

In Kyoto, a leading Democratic member of the observer delegation agreed that the treaty was not acceptable to the Senate in its current form. "What we have here is not ratifiable in the Senate in my judgment," Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) said. According to aides in Washington, Kerry wanted Clinton to sign the deal but hold off submission of it until follow-on conferences scheduled for Bonn in June and Buenos Aires in November.

At those meetings, the next step in the process of designing an international strategy to combat global warming, international delegates will again discuss more active participation by developing countries, which was essentially removed from the pact during the final hours of deliberation in Kyoto because of objections from China and India.

U.S. opponents of a global warming pact, including the Republicans and major American industries, especially coal, oil, steel and electric power producers, have argued that a deal that requires industry in this country to go through the expensive process of significantly cutting emissions of greenhouse gases was unfair unless the same requirements applied to all nations.

The treaty approved by consensus in Kyoto will be available for signature at United Nations headquarters in New York beginning March 15. Once a country signs, it has a year to ratify the pact. Technically, the administration could wait years before acting on the pact. Countries that do not sign during the allotted period may still become parties to the treaty at any point in the future.

Kerry said a delay in formal approval of the treaty need not impede compliance with its goals, noting that the United States often has gone along with treaties before they were ratified. He and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.), who also supports the treaty, said in Kyoto that they are confident strong U.S. public support for action on global warming will help them eventually push the pact through the Senate.

"The people are ahead of the politicians on this one," Lieberman said.

Kalee Kreider, director of Greenpeace's U.S. climate change campaign, said in Kyoto that environmental groups in the United States would begin an extensive grass-roots campaign to increase public support for the accord. She said the groups have been focusing their effort on government officials in the time leading up to the Kyoto conference, and "we haven't done as much public education as we should have."

Kreider said U.S. opponents of the treaty have greatly overstated its economic effect and insisted that a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign mounted this fall by industries opposed to emissions cuts failed to weaken public support for fighting global warming.

Republicans said yesterday they were adamantly opposed to any delay in submitting the treaty for ratification, warning they would object to any steps to implement the treaty "piecemeal," as Craig put it, without Senate approval.

Although yesterday's news that the treaty was nearing agreement in Kyoto brought a new round of Senate denunciations, the global warming pact was in trouble from the start. During the summer, the Senate voted 95 to 0 to assert its opposition to any treaty that endangers the U.S. economy and spares developing countries from constraints imposed on developed nations.

On Tuesday, Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) wrote Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), head of the Senate observer group, saying the treaty was falling short of these conditions and declaring the Senate "will not ratify a flawed climate change treaty."

He criticized Vice President Gore, who in a Kyoto speech on Monday promised increased flexibility on the part of U.S. negotiators, saying Gore's intervention "further clouded an already murky situation" and "added to the bleak prospects for Senate ratification."

"If they [the administration] won't take our advice, we won't give our consent," said Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.). Few on either side of the already rancorous debate over the pact could remember many major treaties -- even going back to bitter Cold War-era arguments over arms control -- that headed toward the Senate in such tattered shape.

One major reason is that, as Craig put it yesterday, the issue carries "so much domestic political baggage," and Republicans lost no time in rummaging through the contents.

It seems that Clinton and Gore are "rushing to reach a deal at any cost," Craig asserted. In a preview of political debates to come, Craig said that if the treaty is signed on behalf of the United States, "it will be the first time in history that an American president has allowed foreign interests to control and limit the growth of the U.S. economy."

Anticipating the fierce criticism from Republicans, Clinton last night told a Democratic fund-raising dinner in New York that technological advances can mean a cleaner environment without economic damage. "We will fulfill our moral obligation to leave our children and our grandchildren a planet upon which they can live in peace with one another because of the resources that are left."

Staff writer Peter Baker in New York contributed to this report. Dewar reported from Washington, Sullivan from Kyoto.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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