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U.S. has no plans to implement climate treaty, EPA chief says

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration has no plans to implement the climate treaty negotiated in Kyoto, Japan, because it's clear Congress won't ratify it anyway, the chief of the Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday.

"We have no interest in implementing that treaty," EPA Administrator Christie Whitman told reporters, although she said the president continues to believe that global warming is an issue of concern.

She said the administration will remain "engaged" in international negotiations on ways to address climate change. But it was unclear what position the administration intends to take to the next United Nations meeting on the Kyoto accords, scheduled for this summer.

Whitman repeatedly noted that the Senate voted 95-0 against the United States taking any action on climate change unless developing countries also take some measures to reduce heat-trapping "greenhouse" gases, which are mainly carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels.

The Kyoto agreement calls for industrial nations to reduce emissions — at least for the time being. The United States would be required to cut emissions about a third by 2012.

On a number of occasions Bush has expressed his opposition to the Kyoto accord, which the Clinton administration had viewed as essential to dealing with the risks of climate change.

Whitman noted that no other industrial country has ratified the agreement. "We are not the only ones who have problems with it," Whitman said.

Three weeks ago, Whitman in a memo urged Bush to continue to recognize global warming as a serious concern, arguing that to back away from the issue would be damaging both domestically and internationally.

"Mr. President, this is a credibility issue for the U.S. in the international community. It is also an issue that is resonating here at home," she wrote in the March 6 memo. "We need to appear engaged."

The memo came a week before Bush announced he would not endorse legislation regulating carbon dioxide, reversing a position he had taken during his presidential campaign.

On Thursday, Whitman defended the memo.

"My job as the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and as a member of the Cabinet is to provide the president with my best take and what I think is in his best interest," she said.

"He has the broad picture and he needs to make a decision based on all the factors that he sees that I don't take into account as the administrator of the EPA," she continued. "I am fully comfortable with his decision on this."

Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass., a leading advocate of the need to address global warming, said that the White House had undermined Whitman.

He said, "The question is being asked: Does she speak for the administration, and will she be able to enforce environmental laws and seek others where necessary?"

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