The Heat Is Online

Bush Non-Plan Infuriates Allies

Critics angry at Bush climate plan, 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 Washington that our understanding of the science had moved on.


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 US wanted to work with the United Nations towards a long-term goal on greenhouse gases.


Delegates upset


He also proposed a new global fund from the US, Japan and Europe to channel clean technology to developing countries.


 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 US lead in cutting emissions while increasing the economy.


Emissions did indeed buck the upward trend by dropping a fraction of 1% in the US during 2006 - but even the American government admits this was due to a warm winter, cool summer and an oil price they considered far too high.


Moving on


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 US suggest the American people are more concerned about climate change than ever before.


Delegates, though, are not dismissing the Washington meeting out of hand.


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 China is to be helped to deal with its booming emissions.


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.


The US has offered to continue this Washington process of discussions if it is deemed helpful by the United Nations.


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


The Washington Post,  September 28, 2007


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.


Addressing a Washington conference of major economic powers, Bush said "the moment is now" to find a broad consensus on how to confront the challenge of climate change. "I want to get the job done," he told hundreds of envoys, lobbyists and activists. "We have identified a problem; let's go solve it together."


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 United States takes these challenges seriously."


"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 United States to take binding tangible steps to cut its global warming pollution. Instead, he proposed a grab bag of small programs and reliance on waving a magic technology wand. These measures won't make a dent in global warming."


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 USA, said Bush's speech underscores "his do-nothing approach to global warming," which he compared to that of the oil industry. "The American people understand that his position is a lie," Passacantando said, "and people across the world need to know that the American people no longer believe their president on global warming."


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 Kyoto treaty intended to fight it and broke a campaign promise to impose mandatory reductions in power plant carbon dioxide emissions. Since then, his views and policies have evolved to the point where now, nearly seven years into his presidency, he has decided to make a major push to find an international agreement to replace Kyoto when it expires in 2012.


The White House-sponsored conference yesterday and today gathered representatives of 15 other major polluting states, including the major European powers, Japan, Russia, Canada, Brazil and South Africa. Especially important was the participation of China and India, the world's most populous nations. They were exempt from Kyoto because they are still developing, but they produce increasing amounts of greenhouse gases.


Because Bush still resists the sort of mandatory caps envisioned by Kyoto, many environmentalists suspect the president's effort is more for show and could even be an attempt to undermine an ongoing U.N.-sponsored process to replace Kyoto starting with a conference in Indonesia in December. Bush tried to dispel such suspicions today by saying his initiative falls under that U.N. process.


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 United States to impose, he said his way is more effective and would not harm the economy.


"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."