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Global warming greatest Earth issue, expert says

Global warming is the world’s most important environmental issue, according to the executive director of the Environmental Defense, Fred Krupp.

“It really is the future of the world at stake,” said Krupp. “We can’t afford to scale back our ambitious efforts.”

Krupp yesterday spoke to about 100 environmental lawyers and activists at the Meridien Hotel during the seventh annual Lawyer’s Reception sponsored by the Environmental League of Massachusetts.

Krupp had just returned from a climate control conference in The Hague, Netherlands. He said the conference ended without any results because the United States and some European countries tried to negotiate changes to the agreement established at the 1997 Kyoto conference in Japan.

In Kyoto, delegates representing the world’s nations discussed cost-effective methods to combat global air pollution. The countries agreed to a mandatory emissions reduction proposal in the industrial world by 2008, Krupp said.

Because its ratification requires approval from 55 countries representing 55 percent of the world’s emissions, the United States will need to support the proposal as it contributes to 25 percent of the pollution, Krupp said.

He stressed the need to proceed with the mandates from the Kyoto conference.

Some dissenters from the conference suggested an “escape hatch” for some businesses that would permit them to pay a fee instead of reducing their emissions. President Bill Clinton refused to accept this loophole, Krupp said.

“We have to convey to the next president this sense of optimism,” he said.

If elected, Al Gore would try to tackle the global warming issue, he said. However, Krupp was less enthusiastic about Gov. George Bush.

“I’m not sure what will happen,” he said, as the audience laughed. “We would need to chart those waters as best as we could.”

Krupp also said there will be demand for bipartisan progress on issues such as conservation. While some initiatives require less expensive solutions, the government and the private sector must be willing to fund more costly projects.

In New England, global warming will affect maple syrup production and the quality of ski resorts, Krupp said. He praised the Environmental League of Massachusetts for its success lobbying for important legislation such as the Beach Act, a law that requires weekly bacterial testing at beaches and posting warning signs at beaches with higher bacterial counts than the Environmental Protection Agency permits.

“It’s just a remarkable set of achievements,” he said. “The whole country needs Massachusetts to set the pace for environmental legislation.”

Krupp stressed that environmentalists need to enlist help from entrepreneurs from American corporations to create new technology to improve the environment.

“We need to harness the forces of American industry,” Krupp said.

Krupp said Americans can decrease damage to the environment by using public transportation, buying fuel-efficient cars and joining environmental groups.

He also suggested visiting websites such as ActionNetwork.org to participate in electronic lobbying. Because of these sites, about 5,000 activists from around the country sent faxes to the White House during The Hague conference to push for increased environmental legislation.

After the discussion, Channing Page, a former member of the ELM board, said she had little optimism in the environmental movement’s future. She said people may wait too late to enact important changes.

“I think we have a hard time in conveying the urgency in these conferences and protocols,” Page said. “It’s a daunting task.”

One of the event’s sponsors, Namrita Kapur of the investment bank Adams Harkness ‘ Hill, said she wanted Krupp to address why the United States decided to change their position on forest preservation. She said the Environmental Defense should pressure the United States to agree to the original mandates.

“I’m still concerned about the conference in May,” Kapur said.

ELM legislative director Pamela DiBona said she hoped the event introduced the world’s major environmental problems to the lawyers, who tend to narrowly focus on their cases.

“We like to take the big picture issues and bring them home to Massachusetts,” she said.

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