27th May 2019

EU lukewarm on Bush climate plan

European reactions to US President George W. Bush's plan to tackle greenhouse gas emissions range from the critical to the decidedly undiplomatic.

EU Environment commissioner Stavros Dimas warned that the proposals, which would see the United States halt growth in emissions – but not cut them – by 2025, "will not contribute to the fight against climate change," according to AFP.

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  • Mr Bush's climate change plan has received a lukewarm reception in Europe (Photo: The White House)

"Time is running out and we have the duty to reach an agreement in Copenhagen in 2009," he added, suggesting the Americans reconsider their position.

A spokesperson for the commission added: "This does not match with the level of ambition needed on the part of developed countries, considering their responsibilities in the challenge we face," reports Reuters.

"We welcome the fact that President Bush last night recognised the need for federal legislation of a legally binding nature to address greenhouse gas emissions in the United States and for the first time made a reference to cap and trade," the Reuters article further reports the spokesperson as having said.

"The commission hopes that the US will reflect further on the level of ambition this represents, and notably in only stopping the growth of US emissions by 2025."

President Bush announced the plan with great fanfare as the move is a significant change from the position the Bush administration has taken on climate change since 2001.

Until this year, he had rejected the idea that global temperature increases were the result of human activity.

Shortly after his inauguration, Mr Bush withdrew the US from the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, provoking the ire of Europe and many nations around the world.

In the last year, however, the president has begun to hint that he had changed his opinion on the subject. Wednesday's speech is the first policy announcement flowing from the switch.

Although ideologically it is big shift, in terms of practical actions that flow from it, European nations feel the plan would still only exacerbate the situation.

The German environment minister, Sigmar Gabriel, was blunt to the point of being undiplomatic, calling Mr Bush's speech on the subject "neanderthal".

"His speech showed not leadership but losership," said Mr Gabriel. "We are glad that there are also other voices in the United States."

Meanwhile, France's chief climate negotiator, Brice Lalonde, was only slightly more welcoming of Mr Bush's proposals: "The current American administration is just beginning to wake up, a bit late," he said.

"It is good the US is moving, but it is bad the move is not bigger", said Danish climate and energy minister Connie Hedegaard.

"Considering the US emits twice as much CO2 per inhabitant compared to Europe, there is still a long way to go," she added.

Ms Hedegaard will be chairing the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009 in Copenhagen set to agree a successor to the 1997 treaty negotiated at Kyoto.

The Paris discussions, termed the Major Economies Meeting (MEM) brings together the world's leading economies, which produce 80 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The ad-hoc group, which includes China and India as well as the G8 and the EU, is an initiative of Mr Bush, having first met last September and then again in January, both times in the United States.

It is an informal meeting, intended to allow a free flow of discussion ahead of the international climate talks in Copenhagen next year. Indonesia, Mexico, South Korea, Brazil and Australia also participate, along with UN Framework Convention on Climate Change officials.

It will next meet at the G8 summit in Japan in July, where a statement on actions to be taken will be issued.

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