The Heat Is Online

Bush Plan Meets with Widespread Skepticism

Bush's green noises greeted with scepticism


Financial Times, May 31 2007 18:33


In the last few months President George W. Bush has performed a number of U-turns.


On Monday, for example, US officials held direct talks in Baghdad with their Iranian counterparts for the first time since the 1979 revolution. Similarly, sharp policy changes have occurred on North Korea and Iraq, where Mr Bush suddenly abandoned talk of "victory" following last November's congressional elections.

But Thursday's speech on global warming, in which Mr Bush proposed that the world should agree a target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, may come to be seen as the most brazen of them all.

Summing up the administration's climate change stance in 2001 following Mr Bush's first Europe visit, Andrew Card, then White House chief of staff, said: "The emperor Kyoto was running around for a long time and he was naked. It took President Bush to say, 'The guy doesn't have any clothes on.' "

On Thursday Mr Bush essentially proposed a successor protocol to Kyoto, which expires in 2012 and which his administration summarily rejected. Many were virtually speechless at Mr Bush's change of tune, which he attributed to new scientific evidence. "For the last six and a half years, President Bush has been doing everything possible to prevent international action to tackle global warming and to question whether it is even happening," said Emily Figdor, director of the global warming programme at Public Interest Research Group, an environmental body. "So please forgive me for sounding a little sceptical."

Others were more incredulous, citing the fact that Mr Bush's administration continues to contest the right of 12 US states, including California, to set targets to reduce their car emissions -- policies which would require a federal waiver.

Thursday's announcement also follows weeks of wrangling between the US and Germany over the text of a communiqué at next week's Group of Eight leading industrialised nations summit, during which Bush administration officials have strenuously objected to any language that would limit permissible increases in average global temperature.

This is a transparent effort to divert attention from the presidents refusal to accept any emissions reductions proposals at next weeks G8 summit, said Philip Clap, head of the National Environmental Trust, another lobby group.

The White House is just trying to hide the fact that the President is completely isolated among the G8 leaders by calling vaguely for some agreement next year, right before he leaves office.

However, Barbara Boxer, the Democratic senator who is leading congressional efforts to create a US carbon cap-and-trade system which Mr Bush continues to oppose, yesterday congratulated him for accepting her proposal to convene a summit of the worlds 12 largest economies to set a climate change target. I stand ready to assist him with the summit and negotiations in any way I can, she said.

Whether or not Mr Bushs change of policy on global warming is heartfelt, observers are agreed that the US president had little choice but to "get on the right side of history" in the words of a former administration official. Mr Bush has become increasingly isolated on climate change --  both globally and within the US -- with even some of his staunchest Republican allies accepting the need for action long before his own conversion to the cause.

A growing number of evangelical Christians, the bedrock of Mr Bush's electoral support, have embraced the issue, convinced that responsible stewardship of the environment is a Christian mission. Last year, a group of prominent evangelical leaders launched an advertising campaign on Christian radio stations raising the alarm on global warming.

US business leaders have also increasingly broken from Mr Bush on the issue. In January, 10 of the biggest US companies, including Alcoa, General Electric and Lehman Brothers, urged the president to embrace mandatory carbon emissions caps.

"The US should take a leadership position in the next phase of Kyoto," said Jim Rogers, chief executive of Duke Energy, in an interview with the Financial Times at the time. "It is important that our national response syncs up with the worldwide response."

Meanwhile, almost all of the 2008 presidential candidates have accepted the science behind global warming and the need for action. "Political forces have converged in America to create a perfect storm," said Julianne Smith, a senior analyst at the Centre for Strategic International Studies in Washington.

"One by one, Republicans, business leaders, governors and evangelicals have changed their position. Mr Bush is really following them and not leading."

But the real test, say observers, will be in the precise stance Mr Bush takes at the global warming summits he plans to convene. "Mr Bush says technology, technology technology, and the Europeans say regulation, regulation, regulation," said Ms Smith. "Let's see what happens in practice."

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007

Bush Wants Global Meeting on Climate Change, June 1, 2007

WASHINGTON - US President George W. Bush, under fire for resisting tough action on global warming, on Thursday called on about 15 influential countries to agree by the end of 2008 on a long-term goal to cut emissions.

The proposals, announced before a summit of major powers that will consider the issue, stressed new technologies to make energy use more efficient and restated Bush's rejection of firm caps on carbon dioxide emissions that many of his allies want.

Critics dismissed the strategy as a diversion and a delaying tactic but some European leaders and a U.N official expressed hope that it might be a first step to more action.

It was the strongest statement yet from the United States about curbing climate warming emissions after the international Kyoto Protocol ends in 2012.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel had hoped to forge an agreement on climate change at a Group of Eight summit of major industrialized countries she is hosting next week and Bush has been under pressure to give some ground at the meeting.

"The United States takes this issue seriously," Bush said in a speech on his agenda for the summit. "My proposal is this: By the end of next year, America and other nations will set a long-term global goal for reducing greenhouse gases."

"To help develop this goal, the United States will convene a series of meetings of nations that produce most greenhouse gas emissions, including nations with rapidly growing economies like India and China," he added.

Bush's proposals included cuts in tariff barriers to encourage sharing environmental technology.

Merkel said Bush's announcement showed that global warming could not be ignored but said that work was still needed on the concrete formulations to be used at the G8 meeting at the Baltic resort of Heiligendamm.

"I think the important thing is -- for the first time America is saying it wants to be part of a global deal," British Prime Minister Tony Blair told Sky News.

In an interview with Reuters, UN climate change chief Yvo de Boer said that White House staff had indicated that this could be the start of a policy shift.


But many environmentalists were highly skeptical.

"The plan announced by President Bush today is a complete charade," said Brent Blackwelder, president of Friends of the Earth. "It is an attempt to make the Bush administration look like it takes global warming seriously without actually doing anything to curb emissions."

The US strategy calls for consensus on long-term goals for reducing the greenhouse gases that spur global warming, but not before the end of 2008, shortly before Bush's White House term ends. Bush would also call on countries to set medium term goals "that reflect their own mix of energy sources and future energy needs."

Bush plans to convene the first in a series of meetings later this year on ways to limit global emissions by a set amount by about 2050. About 15 countries would be invited, including China and India, which like the United States, are major polluters,

Merkel had wanted the G8 summit to pave the way for negotiations to expand and extend the Kyoto Protocol on climate change beyond 2012.

Bush, who rejected the Kyoto accord, opposes the so-called "cap and trade" system at the heart of Kyoto involving credits for companies that cut emissions and penalties for those that do not.

Bush's plan found little favor among Democrats who now run the US Congress. Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, who heads a new House (of Representatives) panel on global warming, said the plan amounted to a "re-warming" of old ideas instead of a necessary commitment to "binding targets" to curb emissions.

"All that President Bush is willing to do is engage in fruitless discussions until the very end of his administration, leaving his successor with the task of actually doing something," Markey said in a statement.

Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, who heads the Senate's environment committee, noted that she had urged Bush twice this year to meet with the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitters, adding, "Today he has accepted that challenge."

But Boxer said in a statement, "No lasting progress on global warming can happen without mandatory caps on global warming pollution."

At least six bills that aim to limit emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide are under consideration in Congress. Outside Washington, more than a dozen states, including powerhouse economy California, are pushing for tough limits on climate-warming emissions.

Environmental groups attack Bush's climate change proposals, June 1, 2007


LONDON (Thomson Financial) - Environmental campaigners accused US President George W. Bush of attempting to 'derail' negotiations over tackling climate change ahead of the G8 summit next week.


Bush said yesterday that he wanted to create a new global framework for reducing carbon emissions, but some have accused him of trying to circumvent the G8 process.


Friends of the Earth (FoE) and Greenpeace expressed strong disappointment at Bush's annoucement, saying the effect of his move would be to 'wreck' the existing process.


FoE director Tony Juniper accused Bush of 'a transparent attempt to derail negotiations that are already going on in the G8 and the United Nations.'


'If the president wishes to be taken seriously on the subject of climate change, he needs to arrive in Germany next week with a willingness to negotiate rather than a determination to wreck talks which are already going on,' he added.


Meanwhile, a Greenpeace spokesman said he had attempted a 'late night mugging' on the Kyoto protocol, which imposes limits on greenhouse gas emissions and which the United States has not ratified.


'When it comes to environmental destruction, George Bush is in a presidential league of his own,' he said. 'To now claim that he is a leading steward of the environment shows how deeply unserious this man is.


'It is unbelievable that Tony Blair could possibly take this new announcement seriously.'


Blair said yesterday that Washington's formal recognition of climate change was 'a huge step forward' from the position even a few years ago.


Copyright AFX News Limited 2007. All rights reserved