Gore Gets Kyoto Brush-Off

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KYOTO, Japan: Al Gore had been warned that addressing the global climate change conference in Kyoto could be political suicide, and judging by the reactions to his speech, the risk may not pay off. Gore’s words have drawn the ire of all sides — and pleased none.

"I am instructing our delegation right now to show increased negotiating flexibility if a comprehensive plan can be put in place," Gore announced at the end of a vivid (and lengthy) exposition on global warming. Few at the 160-nation meeting knew exactly what that meant. Greenpeace complained the speech was full of "hot air;" European Environment Commissioner Ritt Bjerregaard said he was "disappointed" that "the rhetoric was not met by the reality." And the U.S. business community — from which Gore would like at least a measure of support in 2000 — wasn't happy either. William F. O'Keefe, head of the business-based Global Climate Coalition, purported to be "very disappointed and troubled."

Gore's eight-hour stopover, then, may hang like an albatross if a deal acceptable to the Senate cannot be brokered in the next three days — which in turn depends on getting developing nations on board. "The imperative is to do what we promise, rather than to promise what we cannot do," Gore said in a subtle dig at the European delegation. If Kyoto's promise falls flat, he'll get it from both sides back home for what he did, and did not do.