Monday

9th Dec 2019

Europe questions US conversion on climate change

US president George W. Bush has said a long-term goal for reducing greenhouse gas emissions is needed, but some have questioned whether Washington's apparent u-turn on the environment is just a public-relations exercise aimed at derailing current efforts to secure a climate deal under the UN and G8 umbrella.

"Science has deepened our understanding of climate change and opened new possibilities for confronting it," president Bush announced on Thursday (31 May), the Financial Times reported, adding, "by the end of next year, America and other nations will set a long-term global goal for reducing greenhouse gases."

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  • The EU has reacted carefully to President Bush's statements (Photo: The White House)

Washington wants to hold a series of meetings with the world's biggest polluters, including rapidly growing economies like India and China, to create "a new framework…when the Kyoto protocol expires in 2012."

These 15 countries would "establish mid-term national targets and programmes that reflect their own mix of energy sources and future energy needs."

Although Mr Bush's statements seem to indicate willingness to act against global warming, they are also likely to mean that the G8 summit in the Baltic resort of Heiligendamm, scheduled for 6-8 June, will not secure on a breakthrough climate change deal.

Germany's leader Angela Merkel wants the G8 club - composed of the US, Canada, Russia, Japan, the UK, France, Italy and Germany - to agree concrete steps to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius and pave the way for a new framework to replace the Kyoto protocol.

Ms Merkel hopes to bring those results to an UN-brokered meeting in Bali in December.

"The leading role of the UN on climate change is non-negotiable," the chief German negotiator on climate change, Bernd Pfaffenbach, was cited as saying by the UK paper Guardian.

Another German official described the US proposal as a "poison pill" aimed at undermining G8 and UN efforts to tackle global warming.

A similar reaction came from environmental groups who said starting alternative talks would take years to produce results.

"The plan announced by president Bush is a complete charade," Brent Blackwelder from Friends of the Earth told Reuters, adding "it is an attempt to make the Bush administration look like it takes global warming seriously without actually doing anything to curb emissions."

Differences

The two sides of the Atlantic continue to differ on many more aspects of the thorny issue of climate change.

The 27-nation EU has set two clear targets - to prevent global temperatures rising two degrees Celsius above pre-industrialised levels and to cut emissions by 50 percent compared to 1990 levels by 2050.

The main vehicle envisaged by the EU bloc is a carbon trading scheme, a market-based tool which involves credits for companies that cut emissions and penalties for those that do not comply with targets.

However, the White House remains opposed to setting temperature control as well as to placing a cap and trade system at the heart of its own environmental strategy.

"We need to harness the power of technology to help nations meet their growing energy needs while protecting the environment," president Bush said, according to the BBC, making it clear that new clean technologies are seen as essential in Washington.

The European Commission president Jose M. Barroso told the Financial Times that the US had "crossed the Rubicon" in accepting the threat of climate change but was still not fully facing up to its responsibilities.

Mr Barroso added that the US preoccupation with technology to tackle global warming would only work if Washington signed up to a global system of "measurable, binding, enforceable targets."

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