Europeans cool to Bush’s plan on climate
ESSEN, Germany, Saturday (Reuters) - President George W. Bush's plan to combat climate change got a cool reception today in Europe, where the European Union's environment chief dismissed it as unambitious and the “classic” U.S. line.
Bush, under pressure to do more ahead of a summit in Germany next week of the Group of Eight industrial nations, said on Thursday that he would seek a deal among top emitters on long-term cuts in greenhouse gases by the end of 2008.
“The declaration by President Bush basically restates the U.S. classic line on climate change -- no mandatory reductions, no carbon trading and vaguely expressed objectives,” EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said, according to his spokeswoman. “The U.S. approach has proven to be ineffective in reducing emissions,” Dimas said.
Bush called for a long-term deal on cuts among 15 top emitters led by the United States, China, Russia and India, a shift from an existing U.S. policy lasting to 2012 that will allow U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to rise.
German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said Bush's announcement could be seen as progress only if it prepared the way for a United Nations pact to extend the Kyoto Protocol past 2012. “If it is an attempt to hamper such an international climate change agreement, then it is dangerous,” he told reporters. “The European Union and also the G8 should not be content with initiating a process that just means that we'll have some vague agreements between 10 or 15 countries in the world.”
Some newspapers portrayed Bush's plan as a defeat for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who wants the G8 to agree now on a need for world cuts of about 50 percent in emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050. “One of the customs at G8 summits is that the other participants grant the host a success on their big issue,” the Financial Times Deutschland said in an editorial.
“The fact that Bush has not kept to this is an affront, and he's made Merkel's defeat even worse,” it said. In Britain the Guardian said “Bush kills off hopes for G8 climate change plan.”
In Washington, a senior White House official insisted Bush's proposal was aimed at helping to find a consensus and was in no way an effort to upstage Merkel's efforts.
“It is not a competitor to anybody's proposal. It is an effort to make a contribution to an ongoing dialogue,” said Stephen Hadley, Bush's top national security adviser. “The president thought it would be better for him to lay it out before the G-8 meeting so people can think about it,” Hadley said, adding that he had spoken to his G8 counterparts before Bush's speech and that Bush and Merkel spoke via videoconference about it on Friday.
Merkel's spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm said it was too early to predict the outcome of the G8. “I think we can say at this stage that it's going to be tough, that we face very intense discussions,” he said.
U.N. reports this year have projected ever more heatwaves, floods, desertification and rising seas because of rising temperatures linked to greenhouse gases, mainly from fossil fuels. The EU aims to cut its emissions by 20 percent by 2020.
Some leaders including British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush's main ally in Iraq, welcomed Bush's climate shift.