Critics angry at Bush climate plan
BBCNews.com, Sept. 29, 2007
US President George W Bush infuriated his critics by professing world leadership on climate change at his meeting of the top 16 world economies - while offering no new substantive policy and implicitly rejecting binding emissions controls.
Mr Bush, who has been sceptical of climate change, said at the forum in
He agreed that energy security and climate change were major challenges and pledged to solve both problems - but dismissed notions of despair.
The American president said clean technologies like nuclear power and clean coal would protect the economy as well as the environment.
He said the
He also proposed a new global fund from the
But some visiting delegates were outraged by what they said was a stream of spin running through the speech.
One (who understandably asked not to be named) said: "This is a total charade.
"The president has said he will lead on climate change but he won't agree binding emissions, while other nations will.
"He says he will lead on technology but then he asks other countries to contribute funds, without saying how much he'll contribute himself.
"It's humiliating for him - a total humiliation."
Some delegates were particularly upset by the extravagant invitation by Mr Bush for other nations to follow the
Emissions did indeed buck the upward trend by dropping a fraction of 1% in the
Significantly, some of the visiting delegates indicated they were already planning for Mr Bush's departure from the White House.
The Germans said they had spent the past two days in productive meetings with US Democrats.
More diplomatically, the British said the issue of climate change stretched beyond any political cycle so it was natural to look ahead.
Certainly the Democrats are hoping to push an energy bill through the US Congress soon - maybe within the next few months.
Mr Bush would then be forced to veto it to prevent it passing.
And this may not prove popular as opinion polls in the
Delegates, though, are not dismissing the
They say all talks on climate change bringing together the major economic powers are useful in some way - forging personal relationships and building trust.
A number of delegates said the Chinese were becoming less defensive with every international meeting on climate - and that will be vital if
And some said it was useful - albeit tedious - to hear American officials lecturing them with the very facts of climate change that they had been ignoring for years.
Mr Bush himself says he is organising a summit of world leaders next summer.
Privately, some European delegates are already saying they hope their political leaders are not invited.
Story from BBC NEWS
Bush Seeks New Image on Global Warming
President Bush assured the rest of the world today that he takes climate change seriously and vowed that the United States "will do its part" in crafting "a new international approach" to reduce the greenhouse gases that are warming the planet. However, he proposed no new initiatives to do so.
His much-anticipated address, though, was more a defense of his own record on the issue than a concrete roadmap for future action.
Bush said he wants to reach agreement with other heads of state by next summer on a long-term goal for reducing emissions, an accord that would allow different nations to decide how to meet targets. He touted technology as the ultimate solution, ignoring calls for mandatory limits on emissions.
Among the measures he advocated were proposals he has been promoting for years, including cleaner coal production; more nuclear, solar and wind power; additional ethanol as a substitute for gasoline; and increased vehicle fuel efficiency standards. He called energy security and climate change "two of the great challenges of our time" and said that "the
"For many years, those who worried about climate change and those who worried about energy security were on opposite ends of the debate," Bush said. "It was said that we faced a choice between protecting the environment and producing enough energy. Today we know better. These challenges share a common solution:technology."
The speech disappointed critics who had hoped Bush would offer more tangible solutions.
Dan Weiss, an analyst at the liberal Center for American Progress, said Bush "once again told the world that it should hurry up and wait for the
Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), chairman of a House global warming committee, said Bush's only commitment to the environment is to "recycling rhetoric." Markey, who attended the speech, added: "For these countries meeting with the president, this must have felt like attending a prayer session led by an atheist."
John Passacantando, executive director of Greenpeace
The conference represented the most serious effort Bush has made to play an international leadership role on climate change. As a candidate for president in 2000, he expressed doubt that human activity was responsible for global warming. Shortly after taking office, he renounced the
The White House-sponsored conference yesterday and today gathered representatives of 15 other major polluting states, including the major European powers,
Because Bush still resists the sort of mandatory caps envisioned by
If nothing else, the president's language represented a stark change from seven years ago.
"Our understanding of climate change has come a long way," he said, citing a report that concluded that rising global temperatures are "caused largely by human activities." His embrace of a mutual goal for emissions reductions also reflected an evolution from his early days as president.
"By setting this goal, we acknowledge there is a problem," he said. "And by setting this goal, we commit ourselves to doing something about it."
Bush said he would establish a new international clean technology fund along with other nations to help finance clean energy projects in the developing world. He said Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson would begin discussions with foreign leaders over the next several months to organize it.
And yet mostly he spent his talk promoting efforts he has already made, boasting that he has invested $18 billion since taking office to research, develop and promote clean and efficient energy technology. He mentioned his proposal in last January's State of the Union address to expand alternative fuels and increase fuel efficiency to reduce the forecast use of gasoline in the United States by 20 percent in 10 years. He noted initiatives to build the country's first new nuclear power plants since the 1970s, expand cleaner coal technology and develop hydrogen-powered vehicles that emit water instead of exhaust fumes.
Without mentioning the mandatory emissions caps that other countries want the
"This problem ain't going to be solved overnight," he said. "Yet years from now, our children are going to look back at the choices we make today at this deciding moment. It will be a moment when we choose to expand prosperity instead of accepting stagnation. It'll be a moment when we turn the tide against greenhouse gas emissions instead of allowing the problem to grow."