President Clinton's problems in selling the agreement, reached at the historic U.N. climate conference in December, surfaced on two fronts this week: at negotiations in Germany on details of the proposed treaty and during budget battles on Capitol Hill.
Some environmentalists complained that the entire Kyoto treaty might be in jeopardy.
In the negotiations concluding Friday in Bonn, Germany, the U.S. delegation has been criticized sharply by European delegates as well as environmentalists observing the talks. At issue was the scope of an emissions trading scheme the administration considers essential to holding down compliance costs to U.S. industry.
Meanwhile, a Senate committee reinforced U.S. lawmakers' reluctance to embrace the administration's global warming plan by slashing nearly $200 million that the White House had sought as part of its climate initiative.
President Clinton wanted the additional money to expand energy efficiency programs and research into renewable energy such as wind and solar technology. The White House considers such programs essential as an early start to wean the country away from heavy reliance on fossil fuels and, thereby, reduce the heat-trapping carbon gas emissions into the atmosphere that many scientists believe are contributing to a gradual warming on the Earth.
In withholding the funds, the Senate Appropriations Committee said it was not convinced of "the existence, extent, or effects of global climate change" and that it considered proposals to cut carbon emissions as outlined in Kyoto "inappropriate" given the information at hand.
Furthermore, it warned against using money for "backdoor" implementation of the Kyoto accord before submitting it for ratification. The White House already has said it has no intention to send the agreement up for ratification this year, fearing it would be defeated.
Both the congressional actions and the rebuke from European allies and many environmentalists at the Bonn talks were seen as further evidence of the difficulties the White House will have in translating the call-to-arms that came out of Kyoto into actual policy.
At the Japan conference, the United States agreed with 37 other industrial countries to commit to reducing greenhouse gas releases - mainly carbon dioxide - by 2008 to 2012. The United States as part of the agreement would cut such heat-trapping emissions to 7 percent below 1990 levels, or about 500 million tons below what they otherwise would be.
Critics, led by the fossil fuel industry, have argued such cuts would devastate the economy by forcing dramatically higher energy costs. But the administration has argued that costs could be substantally reduced by allowing U.S. companies to buy emission credits from other countries.
The 10-day conference in Bonn was aimed at, among other things, starting to examine details of how that trading program would work. The U.S. delegation proposed a system with few restrictions on the amount of trading.
Written by H. Josef Hebert