Environmental affairs

Wednesday, March 2, 2005

Last week, the Kyoto Protocol, whose aim is to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases blamed by some scientists for causing climate changes around the globe, went into effect nearly seven years after the pact was negotiated.

Much of the delay came from the requirement that countries contributing 55 percent of the world's emissions needed to ratify the plan. That happened when Russia signed on.

The protocol puts most of the burden for lowering greenhouse gases on industrialized nations. But nations with fast-growing economies, like India and China, are exempt, as are developing countries. This means some nations, under Kyoto, are permitted to pollute with little or no regulation.

The United States is not a participant in the treaty. The Clinton administration signed the pact in 1997, but a nearly unanimous U.S. Senate rejected the plan. Since then, the Bush administration has said complying with the treaty could cost millions of jobs.

The United States has been a world leader on environmental issues for decades.

At the federal level, agencies oversee rules and regulations regarding the quality of the air we breathe, the water we drink and just about everything we put into our bodies. At the state level, various agencies impose requirements for environmental standards aimed at safeguarding everyone.

America has cleaner air, clearer rivers and lower factory emissions because of standards that are constantly monitored and enforced. It will continue to require a safe environment, even without being a formal participant in the Kyoto Protocol.

-- Southeast Missourian