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Dead or Comatose?

Our most compelling quotes on how leaders feel about the Kyoto Protocol.

July 12, 2001

Our most compelling quotes on how leaders feel about the Kyoto Protocol.

In December 1997, representatives of 166 governments took 11 grueling days to put together the Kyoto Protocol to cut greenhouse gas emissions. But the Bush Administration lost no time in rejecting the agreement in 2001 — to the initial frustration of much of the rest of the world. Our Read My Lips feature takes a look at what U.S. and world leaders have to say about the possible demise of the Kyoto agreement.

How difficult were the negotiations?

“It’s time for some adult supervision.”

(Frustrated U.S. official, December 1997)

What’s at the core of the debate?

“In the developed world, only two people ride in a car — and yet you want us to give up riding in a bus.”

(Chinese official at the Kyoto climate summit, December 1997)

What does the oil industry think about Kyoto?

“The U.S. negotiators at the Kyoto agreement were Boy Scouts. They’re the same people who brought you Kosovo and Somalia and Haiti and Iraq.”

(Former Mobil Corporation CEO and Chairman Lucio Noto, June 1999)

Did anyone issue early warning signals with regard to the hard-line U.S. position?

“We sacrificed the future well-being of the country based on environmental correctness and inconclusive science.”

(Newt Gingrich, then-Speaker of the House of Representatives, December 1997)

But we are all in one boat, environmentally speaking, right?

“We will not do anything that harms our economy, because first things first are the people who live in America.”

(U.S. President George W. Bush, April 2001)

Is anyone happy about Mr. Bush’s decision?

“This announcement by President Bush is the announcement of the death of the Kyoto protocol.”

(Mohammed Al-Sabban, energy advisor to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, March 2001)

Yet, why is the Bush Administration’s decision not that bad, after all?

“When Bush pulled out in the cavalier way he did, he galvanized everyone around the world to make it work.”

(David Doniger, Kyoto treaty negotiator, November 2003)

What is a European view?

“No one has the right to declare Kyoto dead.”

(Sweden’s Environment Minister Kjell Larsson, April 2001)

How does Great Britain look at Kyoto?

“Kyoto is not radical enough. Ultimately, this is about our world as a global community. What we lack at present is a common agenda that is broad and just. That is the real task of statesmanship today.”

(British Prime Minister Tony Blair, February 2003)

How do Asians look at the U.S. adminstration’s position?

“It is totally groundless to refuse the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol on the excuse that developing countries such as China have not shouldered their responsibility.”

(Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi, June 2001)

And what is the U.S. reply?

“I appreciate your point of view — but this is the American position because it’s right for America.”

(U.S. President George W. Bush, June 2001)

Do people elsewhere share his view?

“We have apprehensions that the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol may lead to certain problems that restrict economic growth.” (Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, November 2003)

Can’t we just wait and clarify things?

“We can no longer postpone this crucial decision, because if we do the Kyoto Protocol really will become nothing more than a dead letter.”

(Jan Pronk, Dutch environment minister, July 2001)

What is the root of the problem?

“If one wants to be a world leader, one must know how to look after the entire earth — and not only American industry.”

(EU Commission President Romano Prodi, April 2001)

Without U.S. ratification, what chances are there for the Kyoto agreement?

“To settle rules without the United States is, in effect, to shut the door.”

(Robert Hill, Australia’s environment minister,July 2001)

And finally, what is the reaction to all this of the hosts of the Kyoto negotiations?

“Japan will be dismayed and deeply disappointed.”

(Kazua Asakai, March 2001)