WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration has drawn up an alternative to the Kyoto global warming pact, which 178 other countries accepted last year but the White House rejected, warning it would damage the U.S. economy.
The administration wants to link the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to economic activity so that emission targets could expand or shrink with economic growth, according to a report by the president's economic advisers.
Such an approach would be "flexible in the face of economic growth, encouraging reductions without threatening the economy," the president's Council of Economic Advisers told him.
One official said the administration would lean on U.S. and foreign corporations to reduce their output of greenhouse gases.
It wasn't immediately clear how the government would achieve that. The report to Bush said the government should encourage businesses "to think about their own emissions and opportunities for reductions."
The report expressed doubts about the phenomenon of global warming -- the effects of natural climate change and human activity, and its pace. However, a report prepared by the National Academy of Sciences for the White House concluded in June that global warming was a real problem that is getting worse.
The report to Bush last week warned that the Kyoto requirements could erode the nation's gross domestic product by up to 4 percent in 2010 -- "a staggering sum when there is no scientific basis for believing this target is preferable to one less costly."
The Bush administration says the pact would make U.S. industry less competitive by forcing power companies and manufacturers to use expensive fuels or adopt costly technologies.
Environmental groups said they feared a system of voluntary reductions would do nothing to halt global warming.
Dan Becker, a spokesman for the Sierra Club, said linking greenhouse gas output with economic activity would be "nibbling around the edges" of the issue.
"This is a series of voluntary steps that are linked to the health of the economy in a way that makes America a fair-weather friend of the global climate," Becker said. "When the economy is booming, we'll do something modest;
When it isn't, we'll dump global warming over the side."
The blueprint was meant as an alternative to the 1997 global warming treaty that President Bush renounced last year. That pact calls on about 40 industrialized nations to cut to fixed levels the carbon dioxide emissions that are believed to cause global warming.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer renewed the administration's opposition to the Kyoto treaty on Wednesday, saying it exempts many developing nations,
including India and China.
"Also, the president is very concerned about the effect Kyoto would have on America's workers, on American jobs and on the American economy," Fleischer said. "If that were to go into effect, it would have a screeching halt effect on
the economy and people would lose their jobs as a result."
Bush was to give a speech on the topic Thursday at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.
He wanted to unveil his new strategy before his trip next week to Asia.
Japanese officials are still weighing whether to pursue ratifying the treaty. Administration officials would like to give the Japanese some indication of its emissions policies before Bush travels there next week.
The United States is the world's largest polluter. Last year it renounced its signature on the 1997 climate change treaty reached in Kyoto. It was the lone dissenter when 178 other countries accepted an accord in Bonn, Germany, on how to carry out targets of the Kyoto Protocol.
- 100 Climate Justice Initiative