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Allies Criticize Clinton Plan to Curb Emissions As Ineffectual

By William Drozdiak
The Washington Post

Major U.S. allies in Europe and Asia criticized President Clinton's long-awaited plan to curb global warming Thursday as weak and ineffectual, claiming it does not measure up to U.S. responsibilities to protect the environment as the world's leading polluter.

The skeptical response to Clinton's package of incentives and modest goals - which seeks to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions at 1990 levels between the years 2008 and 2012 - reflects the new light in which the world has begun to assess American leadership in the post-Cold War era.

In terms of the environment, the United States is being scrutinized to see if it is willing to accept sacrifices to cope with global warming that are commensurate with its overwhelming influence. By that yardstick, Clinton's prescription on how to cut greenhouse gases has come short in the court of world opinion.

Germany's environment minister, Angela Merkel, called the U.S. proposals "disappointing and insufficient." Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto lamented that "there might have been room for further efforts." Britain's deputy prime minister, John Prescott, said the plan does not go far enough, and he urged the United States to become "much more ambitious" in preparation for final negotiations on a global warming treaty in Kyoto, Japan, in early December.

"It is simply not good enough," said Peter Jorgensen, spokesman for the 15-nation European Union's executive commission in Brussels. "There must be something better coming from the White House if the United States wants to face up to its global responsibilities."

Most countries of the world tax gasoline so heavily - both to encourage energy conservation and to provide government revenue - that the fuel costs $5 a gallon or more at the pump. With prices about one-fourth that in the United States, the global warming controversy has convinced many foreigners that Americans are not just wasteful gas guzzlers, but a menace to the rest of the planet.