Clinton Proposes Greenhouse Plan

WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Bill Clinton is proposing gradual, mandatory reductions in greenhouse gases as part of a U.S. plan to curb the threat of global warming, while urging tax breaks and other incentives to spur energy conservation, administration sources say.

Clinton's basic theme, which was to be detailed at a White House event Wednesday, is that global warming concerns can be addressed through technology innovations and without new energy taxes.

His proposal, which will serve as the U.S. position at negotiations in Kyoto, Japan, in December, calls for industrial nations to begin a commitment to binding controls on heat-trapping emissions into the atmosphere as early as 2008, according to several administration sources who spoke about the plan Tuesday on condition their names not be used.

But it also would allow countries flexibility to postpone emission cuts -- primarily of carbon dioxide from burning coal and oil -- below 1990 levels until 2012, and possibly several years beyond that, other sources who have been briefed on the proposal said.

Neither the timetable nor the rate of reductions were likely to be embraced by either environmentalists or the Europeans, who have urged more aggressive controls, including emission reductions of 15 percent below 1990 beginning on a limited basis as early as 2005.

And the Clinton package was not likely to sit well among large, powerful segments of industry from oil and electric utility companies to large manufacturers, including the Big Three auto makers. All of these groups have waged an intense campaign against any U.S. commitment to binding reductions.

But in remarks at a Democratic campaign fund-raiser Tuesday night, Clinton said the United States must take the lead in addressing global warming concerns. He reiterated that emission reductions could be accomplished without threatening economic growth.

"The overwhelming consensus of scientists is that we must reduce our greenhouse gases," Clinton said. "I refuse to hide our heads in the sand. We have to face that."

While not commenting on specifics of the proposal, White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry acknowledged that there was no assurance the U.S. plan would be enough to get a treaty in Kyoto.

It was "far from certain that there can be success," McCurry said, adding that Clinton had telephoned world leaders this week to see what the prospects were for success in Kyoto. "This is going to be very, very hard work."

According to four sources, including several administration officials, the U.S. proposal included a package of domestic tax breaks and other incentives to spur, as soon as possible, renewable and energy-efficient technologies and reduce the reliance on fossil burning fuels such as coal and oil. By some accounts, the incentives could total as much as $5 billion over five years.