can’t see the forest

Diplomats Describe Bush Climate Meeting as Foil to UN Summit

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Bush Today in Washington, US President George W. Bush addressed attendees of an international climate conference independent of UN auspices. He performed as expected, urging the establishment of goals for the reduction of emissions, but refusing to adhere to mandatory statutes as recommended by the United Nations.

From MSNBC:

President Bush on Friday urged nations to set a goal for curbing emissions tied to global warming, but stopped short of accepting mandatory curbs laid out in an existing U.N. accord . . .

He said each nation should establish for itself what methods it will use to rein in emissions without stunting economic growth.

He also proposed the creation of an international fund to finance research into clean-energy technology, announcing that the U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson would coordinate the effort . . .

Europeans say technology is crucial but not a substitute for binding targets on emissions.

“One of the striking features of this meeting is how isolated this administration has become. There is absolutely no support that I can see in the international community that we can drive this effort on the basis of voluntary efforts,” John Ashton, a special representative on climate change for the British foreign secretary, said in an interview. “I don’t think that this meeting by itself moves the ball very much at all. The much more significant meeting this week was at the U.N., where there was a sense of urgency.”

According to The Guardian, Ashton told the U.N. Foundation on Tuesday that “the question on the mind of everybody heading into those meetings will be: Is this talking about talking, or deciding about doing?” His concerns echo those of many European diplomats who say the U.S. needs to take a much more proactive approach to curbing greenhouse emissions, not least since other major industrialized nations such as China and India are unlikely to move absent a strong example from Washington. More from that article:

President George Bush was yesterday criticised by diplomats for attempting to derail a UN initiative on climate change by pressing ahead with his own conference, which starts in Washington today.

One European diplomat described the US meeting as a spoiler for a UN conference planned for Bali in December. Another, who spoke to the Guardian on condition of anonymity, claimed that the US conference was merely a way of deflecting pressure from other world leaders who had asked at the G8 summit this year for the US to make concessions on global warming.

They predicted that Mr Bush, who is to address the meeting tomorrow, will stress the need to make technological advances that can help combat climate change but will reject mandatory caps on emissions.

The British government shares the frustration of other European governments with the lack of urgency on the part of the Bush administration. The British assessment of Mr Bush’s conference is reflected in the level of representation – Phil Woolas, a junior environment minister.

Mr Bush invited 15 countries, plus all EU members.

The highest-ranking representative from outside the US is the German environment minister, Sigmar Gabriel. He said yesterday he did not expect the US or other nations attending the conference to budge. “One cannot expect concrete results.”

One of those attending said the conference reflected “political hardball” on the part of the Bush administration, aimed at undermining the UN, for which it holds long-term suspicion. Another said the conference was aimed at domestic politics, with Mr Bush seeking headlines and television coverage implying that he was doing something about climate change while, in fact, doing almost nothing.

Within the U.S., there has been speculation that a secondary motivation for the White House and the Republican Party may be to preemptively curtail suggestions from Democratic Presidential contenders that the Republican Party has been too passive on the issue of climate change. If the feeling of international diplomats is any reliable gauge, Bush showed hospitality but no Texas-sized gumption during the course of the events of yesterday and today.

Environmentalists have long been aware that any meaningful solution to the problem of climate change will not come without an uncomfortable economic price tag, the majority of which will be shouldered by major corporations, but which will also affect employees and consumers.

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