The Heat Is Online

Bush Switch Infuriates Europe

Europe furious at US climate call


Financial Times, June 1,2007


Germany and the European Commission reacted angrily to President George W. Bush's apparent change of heart on climate change on Friday, setting the stage for a stormy G8 summit of rich industrialised countries next week.

A spokesman for Angela Merkel, Germany's chancellor and current G8 president, said Germany's stance that  climate talks should take place within the United Nations was "non-negotiable". Stavros Dimas, the EU environment commissioner, dismissed the proposals for climate talks as vague and "the classic US line".

Mr Bush on Thursday appeared to suggest a parallel process to the UN, by which the world's 15 biggest emitters of greenhouse gases would within 18 months "establish a new framework on greenhouse gases when the Kyoto protocol expires in 2012" and "set a long-term global goal on reducing emissions".

His proposal marked a reversal of the US policy of refusing to discuss emissions cuts and rejecting a global framework such as Kyoto.

But the plans are starkly different from the proposal tabled by Germany for next week's G8 summit, which would require leaders to agree to prevent global temperatures rising by more than 2 degrees Celsius and require stringent emissions cuts.

Attitudes within Europe hardened on Friday as some politicians and activists accused Mr Bush of trying to wreck next week's summit, and UN negotiations on climate change, set to take place this December.

José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, told the Financial Times Mr Bush should be "more ambitious" and said the UN must "remain the basis for setting -- and achieving -- binding, measurable and enforceable targets".

Sigmar Gabriel, the German environment minister, said Mr Bush's speech could mark a "change in the US position or a manoeuvre aimed at causing confusion".

A comment by Mr Bush to German media that Ms Merkel "will be pleased" with his proposals, which run counter to her own, was seen as provocative.

There were signs on Friday night that Mr Bush's proposals would split the G8, which some sceptics argue is his intention. Stephen Harper, Canada's prime minister, welcomed the plans, as did Tony Blair, Britain's outgoing prime minister, and Shinzo Abe, Japan's prime minister.

"It's absolutely intended to split the G8," said John Sauven, director of Greenpeace.

Mr Abe said: "I believe the United States too is finally getting serious in dealing with global warming." Tokyo's position is that binding targets have failed because they leave out the world's biggest emitters, especially the US, China and India. It is championing a vaguer approach, in which the world's biggest emitters pledge to use technology to tackle emissions.

Yasuhisa Shiozaki, the chief cabinet secretary, said: "We believe Prime Minister Abe and President Bush share the same perspective and look forward to achieving significant progress [next week]."

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007