Climate Change Burning Issue At G8 Summit As US Claims Leadership Role
Paris (AFP) June 03, 2007
George W. Bush's 11th-hour initiative on climate change has severely roiled international waters, threatening to plunge the G8 summit of industrialised economies starting Wednesday into a stormy debate over how best to keep the planet from overheating.
The US president's call for a "new framework" in which the world's biggest carbon polluters will set long-term goals for curbing greenhouse gases was especially unsettling for summit host German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is seeking to forge a binding pact to cap world temperature rises.
Currently president of both the G8 and the European Union, Merkel reacted to Bush's statement by drawing a line in the sand.
Keeping negotiations on reducing global carbon emissions within the existing United Nations structure, she insisted, was "non-negotiable."
Bush said he intends to expand on the Asia-Pacific Partnership, a technology-oriented, multilateral organisation -- including China and India -- set up by the United States in 2005.
Merkel also seems determined to anchor two other climate change objectives in a joint G8 communique: cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent compared to 1990 levels before 2050, and holding global temperature rises to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by century's end.
"I cannot negotiate on the two degrees," Merkel told Der Spiegel days ahead of the three-day summit in the northeastern German resort of Heiligendamm.
The UN's top panel of climate scientists has predicted that increases beyond that threshold could unleash catastrophic consequences ranging from an increase in violent storms to severe drought to rising sea levels.
US diplomats, however, have already deleted both of these targets from a draft document prepared by Germany, commenting in red ink that "there is only so far we can go, given our fundamental opposition to the German position."
Experts differ on whether Merkel will ultimately settle for a watered-down accord that might smooth the way for UN-sponsored negotiations in December.
"The question is whether Merkel and (British Prime Minister Tony) Blair will stick to their positions no matter what, or whether they will be satisfied with a minimal declaration," said Philip Clapp of the National Environmental Trust in Washington.
"There is an increasing likelihood of the talks not leading to a consensus but a chair's summary or statement that uses the phrase: 'those of us who have ratified the Kyoto Protocol'..." commented World Wildlife Fund Climate Director Hans Verole. "The US negotiators are not alone in trying to block progress," he said, pointing to Canada's support of Bush's position.
The Kyoto Protocol is the only treaty in force that mandates a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
The 35 industrialised nations that have ratified it are required to make targeted cuts in emissions by 2012.
The United States is a signatory, but opted out of the treaty because it does not include rapidly developing nations. China -- which has been invited to attend the summit along with India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa -- is set to overtake the United States as the world's top carbon polluter within a year or two.
The Bush administration favors a system of voluntary greenhouse gas reductions in which each nation sets its own polices and goals. It is hostile to the mandatory caps and the global carbon-trading regime favored by the European Union. According to the Bush plan, countries could set "mid-term national targets and programmes" depending on "their own mix of energy sources and future energy needs."
Experts have criticised the absence of enforceable measures in the Bush proposal.
"There is no mention of sanctions, of legally-binding targets. This is not the quantum leap in climate policy from the US that we need to solve the problem," said Thomas Downing, director of the Stockholm Environment Institute in Oxford, an independent think tank.
Bush Highlights US Global Leadership Ahead Of G8 Summit
But in his weekly radio address, Bush avoided mentioning Iraq or long-standing US opposition to radical cuts in greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming. Instead, he focused on what he called US efforts to "lift societies out of poverty" and "help reduce chaos and suffering" around the world.
"Our nation is delivering aid and comfort to those in need," Bush said. "We're helping expand opportunity across the world."
He added that "in all these endeavors, the American people can be proud of our global leadership and generosity."
To prove his point, the US leader mentioned his decision, announced last Tuesday, to tighten economic sanctions against Sudan and to seek new UN Security Council action that will expand the arms embargo, and prohibit Sudan's government from conducting offensive military flights over the troubled region of Darfur.
He also pointed to his decision to double the US international AIDS prevention package to 30 billion dollars over the next five years, his administration's initiative designed to lift Africa out of poverty, and his most recent climate change initiative.
Bush's climate plan unveiled on Thursday calls for a commitment to cutting global greenhouse gas emissions to 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 and limiting the worldwide temperature rise this century to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).
Environmental groups immediately criticized the plan as vague and based on non-binding limits on the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, but Britain and Germany hailed the move as an important, if symbolic, step forward.
In his address, the US president chose to focus on the contribution to world environmental health that he believes must be made by developing rather than industrialized countries, arguing that the United States must help them adopt new clean energy technologies. "Through the spirit of innovation, we will help developing nations grow their economies and be responsible stewards of the environment," Bush said.
Source: Agence France-Presse
Email This ArticleAustralia Sets Carbon Trading Date In 2012 But Prefers An Aspirational Target Only
Sydney (AFP) June 03, 2007
Prime Minister John Howard announced Sunday that Australia, one of the worst per-capita polluters in the world, will launch a domestic carbon trading scheme in 2012 to fight global warming. But Howard warned that capping the carbon dioxide belched out by coal-fired power stations could seriously hurt the economy and Australia might have to turn in part to previously shunned nuclear energy.
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