Climate change runs into heavy weather

(China Daily)
Updated: 2007-06-07 07:03

The US yesterday opposed setting firm targets for greenhouse gas emissions at the annual G8 summit but offered reassurance that its plan to fight climate change would not undermine UN efforts.

US President George W. Bush told German Chancellor Angela Merkel that he had a "strong desire" to work with her on greenhouse gas emissions beyond 2012, even though he has resisted her appeals for agreement at the G8 summit.

Many European countries have expressed concerns that Bush's plan might undermine UN talks on a global deal to replace the Kyoto Protocol, the main UN plan until 2012 for curbing greenhouse gas emissions mainly by burning fossil fuels. The US is the only G8 nation outside Kyoto.

"There's a lot more in common, in a way, than there is disagreement," said Bush's national security advisor Stephen Hadley.

The US has now acknowledged that global warming is a serious problem that must be addressed, and that doing so requires a global goal. The European Union and other nations have come around to Washington's view that no solution is viable without the participation of developing energy guzzlers such as China, India and Brazil, and that economic growth can't be sacrificed for progress on climate.

What Hadley did not say is the chasm that still exists on how to meet these principles.

Germany, as summit host, is pushing specific targets for reduction of the carbon emissions that cause global warming. Merkel has made the issue the centerpiece of her G-8 leadership.

Her proposal for a "2-degree" target, under which global temperatures would be allowed to increase by no more than 2 C before being brought back down. Practically, experts have said, that means a global reduction in emissions of 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. Merkel supports a global carbon-trading market as one tool.

But Bush remains opposed to hard targets, saying technological advances should primarily meet voluntary goals. Last week, he announced his plan to move forward: a global emissions goal negotiated by the world's 15 largest polluters, including the big emerging economies, by the end of next year.

The catch? Each nation would decide for itself how to meet the goal and whether to make the targets binding.

Some criticized Bush for announcing his proposal in a speech just days before the summit, instead of quietly bringing it with him. They said Bush undermined Merkel with something that amounted to little more than kicking the problem down the road for an uncertain result.

Not so, said Hadley.

"This is an effort by Bush to be constructive and to make a contribution to the dialogue," he said. "Quite frankly, it's an opportunity for Merkel to preside over a very successful G-8."

Merkel has called the proposal a decent place to start finding common ground. And Bush has assured her that he is committed to using the UN as the forum to reach a new global warming pact to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012 -- a key demand of the German chancellor.


(China Daily 06/07/2007 page2)

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