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NEWS RELEASE March 16, 2001 Washington, D.C.


In a landmark retreat on climate change, President George W. Bush last night bowed to the interests of America's coal and power plant lobbies, according to WWF, the conservation organization.

Replying to Republican Senator Hagel, who has been critical of taking action against climate change, President Bush has come out against making mandatory reductions of carbon pollution from power plants. President Bush also stated, "I oppose the Kyoto Protocol" - the agreement intended to shave 5 per cent of industrialized nations' global warming gases in the coming decade. His letter cites arguments of "serious harm to the U.S. economy", "the incomplete state of scientific knowledge" on global warming and "the lack of commercially available technologies" as the main arguments for deciding against reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the U.S.

"President Bush is wrong on the costs, wrong on the science, and wrong on the technologies," said Jennifer Morgan, Director of WWF's Climate Change Campaign. "His stance ignores the welfare of those who are increasingly suffering the day-to-day effects of humanity's interference with the climate that's being caused by carbon pollution."

WWF South Pacific argues that small island states have just as much right to be concerned about the lives and livelihoods of their people. Adverse effects from climate change are already causing significant hardships for Pacific nations.

There has been an increase in the warming of ocean surface temperatures resulting in widespread occurrences of coral bleaching. There has been the forced relocation of islanders from the Duke of York atolls in Papua New Guinea as their islands sink under the impact of sea level rise. Tarawa, the capital of Kiribati, suffered severe flooding last month as sea level rises combined with storm surges created severe conditions.

"President Bush is concerned about the lives of people who live in an over consumptive society, but we are concerned with the lives of people from many different countries, most of whom still enjoy a subsistence lifestyle and whom have very little idea of the effects of emissions in the changing ocean and weather patterns that are creating havoc in their lives," said Bernadette Masianini of the WWF office in Suva.

If all nations were to take hard-line stands similar to the U.S., the world would be a sorrier place. WWF South Pacific reiterates the call on developed nations already taking measures to reduce emissions to continue to urge President Bush to reconsider his position. At the failed COP6 talks in The Hague in November 2000, numerous pleas were made on humanitarian grounds, pleas from small island states that contribute 0.06% of the emissions compared to the U.S. rate of 25%. The bottom line is that the U.S. government does not appear to be concerned with waves washing some little island nations in the South Pacific, but is more concerned with the influence of the coal industry and other lobbyists against the reduction of domestic emissions. Pacific island governments and regional organizations should make known to the Bush administration that their decision impacts on the future livelihood and existence of the small island states.

On Mr. Bush's flawed economics, WWF points to a variety of studies for the U.S. as a whole and for the states of Florida, Texas, Michigan and New England that show how prudent and proven policies could cut emissions while reducing consumers' energy bills.

On science, President Bush's letter comes only weeks after U.S. officials helped approve a new global scientific consensus on climate change during meetings in Shanghai, Geneva and Accra. In the strongest consensus to date, the IPCC concluded that most of the global warming observed over the last 50 years is due to human activities - primarily burning coal, oil and gas for energy - which have increased atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. They also agreed that climate change impacts are already occurring in all environments and on all continents but that there is no shortage of available technologies to reduce global warming gases.

"Other, more progressive governments should not wait for the U.S. WWF is urging governments that are already moving ahead and reducing their emissions to also redouble their efforts to engage President Bush on this problem. This is key to heading-off the worst impacts of climate change on the world's coral reefs, polar bears and countless citizens around the world," said Jennifer Morgan.

WWF had been cautiously hopeful that the new U.S. Administration might be serious about tackling climate change following the moderate tone adopted by U.S. representative and head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Christie Todd Whitman, at the meeting of G8 environment ministers in Trieste, Italy, 10 days ago. The constructive tone of the G8 communiqué appears to have alarmed U.S. coal and power plant industries that are the main emitters of CO2 and which have in recent days engaged in heavy lobbying of the White House.

For more information:

Kara Rinaldi, Climate Change Press Officer, Tel: +1 202 257 9959 (mobile)

Andrew Kerr, Public Affairs Manager, WWF Climate Change Campaign, Tel: +316 5161 9462 (mobile)

Robert Kihara, Press Officer, WWF International, Tel: +41 22 364 9553

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