U.S. and German Leaders Explore Climate Cooperation

WASHINGTON, DC, January 4, 2007 (ENS) - Climate change and energy efficiency were high on the agenda today as President George W. Bush hosted German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House. The two leaders pledged to work closely together in this new year, which marks the beginning of Germany's presidency of both the European Union and the Group of Eight industrialized nations.

"We talked about climate change," President Bush told reporters in a joint news conference with Chancellor Merkel after their private meeting.

"I assured the Chancellor that I've been committed to promoting new technologies that will promote energy efficiency, and at the same time do a better job of protecting the world's environment," Bush said.

leaders

President George W. Bush welcomes German Chancellor Angela Merkel to the Oval Office at the White House. (Photo by Eric Draper courtesy the White House)
Referring to widespread condemnation of his decision not to ratify the Kyoto climate protocol, which Germany and all EU countries have ratified, Bush said, "I believe there's a chance now to put behind us the old, stale debates of the past and focus on technological developments that will enable us to be good stewards of the environment, and at the same time enable us to become less dependent on oil and hydrocarbons from parts of the world that may not like us."

Instead of endorsing the legally binding greenhouse gas emissions limits of the Kyoto Protocol, Bush has chosen to rely on technological approaches to curbing climate warming.

The Bush administration has supported the development of ethanol, biodiesel and hydrogen fuels as well as the building of new nuclear power plants, despite various environmental problems with each of these technologies.

"Here in the United States," he said at the news conference, "we're going full-steam ahead with new technologies that will change the way we drive our cars and power our homes and light our streets."

Chancellor Merkel said that her trip to Washington today, right after Germany assumed the EU and the G8 presidencies, is not a coincidence.

"It is clearly an expression of the fact that we share values, that there are a lot of common interests between our two countries, and that there is also a lot of need for enhanced cooperation between the European Union and the United States of America," the chancellor said. "We clearly are in need of that cooperation in order to make further progress in solving the problems besetting the world of today."

"On the one hand," she said, "we obviously need economic growth. But on the other hand, a reduction, also, of greenhouse gases. We were at one on this."

leaders

President George W. Bush and German Chancellor Angela Merkel share a smile at their joint news conference at the White House. (Photo by Paul Morse courtesy the White House)
Germany is committed to phasing out its 17 nuclear power plants. Germany's nuclear phaseout plan was adopted six years ago by the previous government of Chancellor Gerhardt Schroeder, and Chancellor Merkelís current government of Social Democrats and Conservatives has decided to leave it untouched for now.

"Energy efficiency is the primary goal that we need to attain," Merkel said. "There are a lot of areas where we are confident we can cooperate, starting from biofuels to new technologies that we are going to develop."

The foremost new energy technology that Europe and the United States are developing together is nuclear fusion - the same energy source that powers the Sun and other stars. The EU and the USA are two of the seven partners that formally signed on to the ITER project in November.

The ITER facility being constructed in France will demonstrate the feasibility of fusing atomic nuclei to release enormous amounts of energy that the partners hope can be harnessed to provide electricity.

For biofuels, Germany is building a series of ethanol plants that will turn millions of tons of rye and other grains into transportation fuel. The country is a world leader in wind power development and has a thriving solar industry.

The German hydrogen fuel cell industry is still in a pilot phase with 30 fuel cell buses operating in 10 European cities and some demonstration car fleets.

Merkel told reporters at the White House that over the next six months of the German presidency there is "a lot of areas where I feel we can tackle problems together."

"I think this dialogue is just the beginning of a very intensive dialogue we shall continue to have during our presidency - this is, after all, a sixth meeting already," she said. "So I think we may safely speak of a continuous exchange of views."

President Bush said consultation with European leaders such as Merkel has shaped his views about the importance of the United Nations.

"One thing that my European friends have taught me," Bush said, "is that the United Nations is an important body in order to be able to convince parliaments of hard work that needs to be done. For example, getting resolutions on Iraq at the United Nations is important for a country like Denmark or Holland, in order for them to go to their parliaments and say, we have UN approval."

"I've really never felt like the United States needs to get United Nations approval to make decisions necessary for our security," said Bush. "But I have come to realize that other countries do rely upon the United Nations and I respect that a lot."