20 Years Ago: 4-20-93 — President Clinton declines to make specific global warming commitment in first Earth Day address

In 1992, then-Sen. Al Gore had criticized President George H.W. Bush for weakening the global warming treaty to delete specific targets before he would sign it at the Earth Summit.

The news article is below.


Clinton To Endorse Environmental Treaty Bush Spurned
April 20, 1993, Associated Press

President Clinton plans to endorse an international treaty on plants and animals that President Bush refused to sign last year, administration officials said Tuesday.

But in his first major environmental address as president, Clinton will avoid a specific commitment to reduce the threat of global warming, said these officials, who declined to be identified by name.

Clinton scheduled an Earth Day speech for Wednesday in Washington’s Botanical Gardens, a high-ceiling greenhouse at the foot of Capitol Hill. Earth Day is April 22, but White House aides moved the speech up a day to avoid competing with his Thursday address at the new national Holocaust museum.

The president was to announce the United States will sign the so-called biodiversity treaty that Bush rejected at the Earth Summit in Brazil last year. Bush said the treaty lacked sufficient patent protection for U.S. businesses and would leave the United States open to large financial demands from developing countries.

Clinton had the same concerns but devised an interpretive statement about them to accompany the U.S. signature.

On global warming, Clinton was pressed by his own officials to commit the country to reducing greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by the year 2000, another position Bush had rejected.

After considerable debate among government agencies, the White House decided to stay away from the specific commitment at this time, according to a senior official.

Instead, Clinton was expected to make a more general statement on the need to confront global warming through reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases thought to increase temperatures on Earth.

Vice President Al Gore criticized Bush for weakening the global warming treaty to delete specific targets before he would sign it at the Earth Summit.

Opposing factions in the Clinton administration have debated the same questions that bedeviled the Bush administration: how much burden should the government put on business to reduce greenhouse gases and what would the economic impact be?

The Energy and Treasury departments advocate a go-slow approach, concerned about the cost to the economy from changes in the nation’s fuel consumption practices.

The State Department has recommended making specific commitments to demonstrate stronger U.S. leadership on the issue.
Proponents say specific targets would encourage development of new technology to meet the goals.

“The debate I’ve heard in the interagency process is exactly the same as the one we heard in the last administration – the difficulties of meeting the target and what it would cost,” said one State Department official.

“There are a lot of naysayers in the various departments who want to see every measure and its costs analyzed fully and all the t’s crossed before we do anything.”

New government projections show that by 2000, without more action to reduce emissions, the nation will fall a few percentage points short of the 1990 levels. Those estimates include the estimated emission reductions that Clinton’s proposed tax on energy is expected to produce by lowering energy use.

Aides said Clinton also would outline several steps the government will take to be more environmentally efficient.

Environmental groups anxiously awaited Clinton’s speech. He campaigned on promises to protect the environment more aggressively than his Republican predecessors but has issued no major pronouncements since taking office. At his one-day forest conference in Portland, Clinton mainly listened to arguments over saving the endangered spotted owl in Pacific Northwest old-growth forests.

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