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  Straits Times 30 Sep 07
Climate change: Big step for Bush
But critics say his proposal for voluntary caps on emissions is not enough
By Bhagyashree Garekar

Channel NewsAsia 29 Sep 07
Bush gives little ground in battle to halt climate change

BBC 27 Sep 07
Motives behind Bush's climate summit

By Roger Harrabin Environment Analyst, BBC News, Washington

Delegates from the world's top 16 polluting nations are in Washington for a controversial climate change meeting, organised by President Bush.

The meeting will discuss priorities for technology and energy security, and will try to establish some ground rules for negotiating a long-term goal for cutting emissions.

The meeting has been officially welcomed by EU officials, but some privately fear that President Bush may be trying to undermine UN negotiations on the issue by striking a weak deal with the Chinese, under which both sides agree targets that are voluntary, not binding.

It is significant that for a conference addressed by the president and hosted by the secretary of state, many of the participants have sent junior ministers or just officials.

The gathering comes as pressure is building on the president.

The Democrat leaders of the House of Representatives and the Senate both wrote to Mr Bush this week asking him to agree mandatory carbon dioxide (CO2) targets, and to arrange a cap-and-trade system for American industry, like the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

He first mooted this conference just before the G8 meeting in the summer when he was under intense pressure to sign up to mandatory emissions targets. Other world leaders were open-mouthed - and some of the pressure was eased.

'PR exercise'

The question now is what the meeting will deliver. The EU delegates are not expecting any conclusive outcomes. Indeed, there is nothing on the agenda that suggest one might emerge.

Climate analyst Phil Clapp, of the National Environmental Trust, said he believed the meeting had originally been devised to get Mr Bush off the hook at the G8 summit, but had turned into a PR exercise.

There are only two sessions open to the media. The first showcases Condoleeza Rice, timed for Friday's papers. The other promotes Mr Bush, in time for Saturday's papers.

There is no session in which any visiting delegate has been put before the press corps.

Former presidential candidate John Kerry told BBC News that he hoped the meeting would be constructive, but he expected real advance on climate to come from the Congress and not from the White House.

"Voluntary hasn't worked and it won't work and we don't have time to play games anymore. There has to be a mandatory reduction requirement, we all have to be part of it and, frankly, the United States needs to lead," he said.

"We are moving in the Congress; we are putting together legislation; we've been working very hard on it these last months. We will try to adopt a mandatory standard in the Congress and we're going to try to do it before next year is out."

Saleem ul-Huq, a Bangladeshi academic from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), based in London, condemned the event.

He said that holding a meeting excluding poor countries that would be most affected by a warming world was like a slave traders' meeting called to discuss the abolition of slavery.

Channel NewsAsia 29 Sep 07
Bush gives little ground in battle to halt climate change

WASHINGTON : US President George W. Bush, seeking to grab the initiative on climate change, renewed his opposition to mandatory caps on greenhouses gases on Friday and called a summit on the issue by mid-2008.

In a speech to 16 major polluting nations, Bush appeared to give little substantive ground in his standoff with the United Nations on how to tackle the dangers of global warming which experts warn is already damaging the planet.

"Our guiding principle is clear. We must lead the world to produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions and we must do it in a way that does not undermine economic growth or prevent nations from delivering greater prosperity for their people," Bush said.

And he renewed his opposition to imposing mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions, which industry and business leaders in the energy-guzzling United States fear could leave them with hefty bills, and boost consumer costs.

"Each nation must decide for itself the right mix of tools and technologies" to fight global warming, Bush said on the second and final day of the conference organized at his initiative in Washington.

Europe countries and other global warming experts remain wary of any US attempt to parlay the Washington initiative into a narrow, unambitious alternative to the UN process, which is slower and cumbersome but more demanding in its curbs.

But Bush stressed the United States, the world's number one economy and also its top polluter, took global warming seriously, promising it would set "a long-term goal for reducing global greenhouse gas emissions."

And the US president said he hoped to call a meeting of heads of state on climate change by the middle of next year. "We will set a long-term goal for reducing global greenhouse gas emissions," Bush said. "By setting this goal, we acknowledge that there is a problem and by setting this goal, we commit ourselves to doing something about it. By next summer, we will complete a meeting of heads of state to finalize the goal."

He also proposed setting up a fund, to be fed by contributions from governments around the world, to help developing nations harness the power of clean energy technologies.

"We must also work to make these technologies more widely available, especially in the developing world," Bush told a conference of 16 major polluters.

Bush's comments will be closely scrutinized for any sign of a change of direction in US policy, after isolating the US administration for six years from the global task force for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

And his speech is unlikely to have comforted skeptics, who believe the United States is making little effort to rein in its major contribution to the problem of global warming which is changing the planet's climate system.

Carbon pollution, mainly derived from burning fossil fuels, traps solar heat in the atmosphere and is slowly heating Earth's surface, wreaking the first of what could be dramatic changes to the climate system.

At a UN summit on climate change on Monday, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Rajendra Pachauri, warned the crisis was accelerating. Glaciers and Arctic sea ice were retreating rapidly and "major precipitation changes" -- droughts and floods -- were occurring, according to the UN's top scientific panel on climate change.

On present trends, hundreds of millions of people face worsening water scarcity as a result of glacier loss in the Himalayas, which feed key rivers in China and South Asia. Water scarcity could affect the growing of key crops.

UN officials are now looking towards key talks taking place under the UN in Bali, Indonesia, in December on how to deepen emissions cuts when the current commitments set out at the Koyoto Protocol expire at the end of 2012.

"Our view is that Bali is the landmark that we must all look at," said Portuguese Deputy Environment Minister Humberto Rosa, whose country is current president of the European Union.

The 16 nations gathered in Washington are Australia, Britain, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa and the United States.

Together they account for about two-thirds of the world's population, 80 percent of the global economy and about 80 percent of global emissions, according to US figures. Representatives from the EU presidency and Commission and from the UNFCCC are also attending. - AFP /ls

Straits Times 30 Sep 07
Climate change: Big step for Bush
But critics say his proposal for voluntary caps on emissions is not enough
By Bhagyashree Garekar

WASHINGTON - WHEN President George W. Bush took the podium to deliver a 15-minute speech at a conference seen as his most significant climate change initiative, the audience at one point broke into applause.

There was a short burst of clapping when he said the new approach forged by the conference - one which brought together countries that are at once the planet's biggest economies and its biggest polluters - would advance negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

These negotiations, which will take place in Bali in December, will look at extending the shelf-life of the international Kyoto Protocol aimed at halting global warming.

Mr Bush's formal support for the UN initiative was a placatory gesture to those who feared the conference would break away from the Kyoto path.

Yet, Mr Bush skipped any mention of the mandatory caps on the emission of greenhouse gases, which are the bedrock of the treaty he refused to sign in 2001.

Instead, his speech here on Friday called for a heads of states meeting in mid-2008 to finalise a long-term goal for curbing emissions and setting up a 'strong and transparent' system for measuring progress towards the goals.

Meant to be voluntary, the curbs are part of the 'portfolio approach' that the White House would like to institute to combat global warming. It prescribes, as Mr Bush told the gathering of representatives from 16 countries, including China, India, Germany and Brazil, that each country 'must decide for itself the right mix of tools and technologies' to combat global warming.

He also proposed the creation of a new international clean technology fund to finance clean energy projects in developing countries, which are expected to surpass the developed world in emissions within a decade.

There were few takers and some outright sceptics.

'This was a great step for the Americans and a small step for mankind,' said German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel.

'In substance, we are still far apart,' said the minister, underlining the European Union's insistence on mandatory limits on emissions.

Said Mr James Ashton, a special adviser on climate change to the British government: 'A voluntary approach to global warming is about as effective as a voluntary speed limit sign on the road.'

Professor Emil Salim, the father of Indonesia's environment movement and a member of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's council of advisers, noted that until this round of discussions, Mr Bush had never offered any dialogue on Kyoto. 'So, from that point of view, there is some improvement,' he said.

The two-day conference ended without a consensus document, but Mr Bush's chief environmental adviser, Mr James Connaughton, who chaired the meeting, said the discussions would be reconvened after Bali.

Aware of Mr Bush's waning influence as his term approaches its end, some conference delegates reportedly approached Congress to assess the direction of post-Bush climate policies.

At the Democrat-majority Congress, there was little sympathy for the Bush way. It was mere procrastination, said the chairman of a new US House of Representatives committee on global warming, Mr Edward Markey, Democrat.

Related articles on Climate change
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