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Coca-Cola warming to Kyoto? 

In an apparent break with its Atlanta-based parent, Coca-Cola Spain this week came out in favor of the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement aimed at reducing global warming. In response to a query from Greenpeace, the Spanish affiliate said it fully supported the protocol and agreed with the European Union's position endorsing it.

The announcement comes just weeks after President George W. Bush announced the U.S. would not participate in or honor any agreements reached under the series of conferences that spawned the protocol. The Coca-Cola Co. is a member of the U.S. Commission on International Business, a group of corporations that has lobbied against the Kyoto agreements and endorsed the president's decision to pull out of them.

Coca-Cola's website includes a "statement on climate change" that sketches a corporate environmental policy "in which we referred to the basic underlying tenets of the Kyoto Protocol and used it as a reference point," and calls for "market-based incentives" to reduce greenhouse gasses.

But it's precisely such incentives -- such as allowing polluters in industrial countries more latitude to trade pollution credits with less-developed countries, allowing them to exceed limits on emissions -- that protocol supporters see as loopholes. Statements like Coke's are dismissed as feel-good blandishments by groups like Greenpeace, which solicited Coke's statement as part of campaign in which Fortune 100 companies are asked to state their position on Kyoto.

In April, a local Coca-Cola Co. official responded to Greenpeace's query, but declined to endorse the Kyoto accord. CL's efforts to reach Coca-Cola for the company's position were unsuccessful.

"Companies cannot claim on the one hand to have no position, and on the other hide behind" the business commission, says Greenpeace's Steve Sawyer. "If a company doesn't want to be associated with the destruction of the climate, the first thing they have to do is publicly support the Kyoto Protocol."

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