New Policy Center Seeks to Steer
the Debate on Climate Change

By John Cushman
Copyright 1998 The New York Times
May 8, 1998

WASHINGTON -- With millions of dollars from a charitable foundation known for its environmentalism and with endorsements from some of the nation's biggest corporations, a former State Department official who helped negotiate the climate change treaty is mounting a new campaign for action to head off global warming.

Eileen Claussen, who as deputy assistant secretary of state for environmental affairs helped develop the climate protocol approved at an international conference last December in Kyoto, Japan, said Thursday that she would run a policy center that would seek to lend "a credible voice" to the debate.

Pew Charitable Trusts gave her a $5 million annual grant for the project. Already, anti-treaty forces financed by industry and pro-treaty forces from the environmental movement are spending millions of dollars each year in a debate over climate change that is sometimes fraught with exaggeration and even outright distortion of the science and economics of the issue.

"It's a big grant, it's a big bet and it's a big problem," said Pew president Rebecca Rimel. "There is probably no bigger issue facing the country and the globe, and the time to act is now, because the longer we procrastinate, the bigger the problem grows."

Besides the Pew project's financing, about half of which will be spent on advertising, Ms. Claussen won endorsements from a group of large companies with annual revenues in the hundreds of billions of dollars. Their support is meant to signal divisions within big business over the effect of climate control measures that opponents say could wreck the economy by forcing deep cuts in the use of fossil fuels.

Next week, the new Pew Center on Climate Change will publish an advertisement festooned with the corporate logos of its supporting companies, which include the aerospace giants Boeing and Lockheed-Martin, the Japanese automaker Toyota, the appliance manufacturers Maytag and Whirlpool, the diversified conglomerates United Technologies and 3M, and several big energy companies: British Petroleum, Sun Oil, American Electric Power, U.S. Generating Co., Enron, and Intercontinental Energy.

The companies are not contributing financially to the new center, but they are promising to seek ways to reduce their own emissions and to invest in new, more efficient products and technologies. The advertisement says these companies "accept the views of most scientists that enough is known about the science and environmental impacts of climate change for us to take actions to address its consequences."

A major tenet of some industry groups fighting the Kyoto treaty is that too little scientific evidence has been accumulated to justify the treaty's call for deep reductions in emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. Automobile and energy companies have been among the treaty's biggest opponents.

Ms. Claussen's group does not explicitly endorse the Kyoto agreement, but sees it as "a first step." It has called for more work to put into effect the emissions trading schemes and participation by developing countries that the treaty's negotiators plan to work out later this year in talks in Buenos Aires. The Clinton administration has said there must be progress on these issues before it agrees to sign the treaty.

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