Now widely applauded as a champion of the fight to slow human-caused global warming due to his film, An Inconvenient Truth, former Vice President Al Gore did little to advance his favorite cause when he was in power.
Appearing in Japan in 1997 for the signing of the Kyoto Protocol, a global agreement whose goal was to require countries to reduce their carbon emissions by 5 percent from 1990 levels by 2012, Gore announced that the United States would not abide by its treaty obligations.
Gore based his rejection of Kyoto on the grounds that developing countries were not asked to do as much as the United States, despite the fact that the United States, with only 5 percent of the world’s population, was (and still is) the world leader in greenhouse emissions.
The treaty was never submitted to the U.S. Senate for ratification.
Kyoto was further undermined in November 2000 talks on the treaty’s implementation held in the Netherlands. While liberals and progressives were riveted by the Florida election contest, U.S. negotiators insisted on receiving carbon sequestration credits for existing forests in the United States that would have covered more than half of the United States’ Kyoto-mandated emission cuts. U.S. negotiators also insisted on “flexibility mechanisms” (that is, an unlimited carbon-trading regime) which would have allowed it to buy its way out of making any actual emissions cuts.
The talks ultimately collapsed with British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott accusing the U.S. administration of seeking a “free ride.”
Four months later, incoming President George W. Bush formally withdrew the United States from the Kyoto Protocol.
John Tarleton & Kati Hollis