Bush Officials Paint Administration as Green

WASHINGTON, DC, March 8, 2004 (ENS) - Bush administration officials are trying to improve the international perception of U.S. environmental policy. In two speeches during the past six days, officials have tried to put a positive spin on the policies of President George W. Bush to counteract international criticism that the United States has failed to address global warming.

"It's clear that we have failed in the court of public opinion to tell our story," said Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs John F. Turner in a March 2 speech to the Stockholm School of Economics. "If you'll indulge me, I'd like to share with you what the United States is doing internationally to promote responsible stewardship of the Earth."

"The United States is deeply engaged with the world community in fighting environmental degradation in the developing world," Turner said. The speech was delivered during a two week European trip that is taking Turner to Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki and St. Petersburg. Turner

Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs John F. Turner (Photo courtesy U.S. State Department)
Turner addressed critics "who say the Bush administration, at best, lacks an environmental policy" and "at worst, is engaged in an assault on the environment."

Environmental progress is now linked to the concept of sustainable development and meeting the needs of people, Turner said. "It links environmental stewardship, economic growth, and social development in order to lift people out of poverty. After all, it's impossible for citizens to focus on protecting their environment when they are hungry or sick, or their daily life is punctuated by violence and corruption."

Turner also noted U.S. participation in an international partnership to preserve tropical forestland in the Congo Basin, and is supporting African governments in efforts to improve forest stewardship, reduce illegal logging and the taking of bushmeat.

The Bush administration has been criticized in around the world and in Europe for its decision not to sign the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Turner asked his audiences to put differences about that decision aside and instead recognize that the United States is still conducting an aggressive campaign to address climate change.

"The United States has cemented 13 formal bilateral relationships with both developed and developing countries to address climate change," Turner said. He also cited U.S. investments in climate science, renewable energy and energy efficient technologies.

"Of course our countries will differ from time to time on how best to preserve this great blue orb entrusted to our care," Turner said. "But let us move past these differences and take action in the areas where we do agree."

The U.S. State Department's Paula Dobriansky, the under secretary of state for global affairs, had a similar message for the Federation of Austrian Industry in Vienna on March 3.

She emphasized U.S. commitment to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and said the Bush administration "shares its ultimate objective of stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate."


U.S. Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky (Photo courtesy U.S. State Department)
Dobriansky said the United States is committed to addressing the challenge of climate change in partnership with other nations.

"In our view, addressing environmental challenges will only be successful when governments work in collaboration with business and industry to develop solutions to harness the ingenuity of the private sector and enlist its long term support," she said.

Dobriansky too stressed the 13 bilateral relationships that the United States has written with other countries, which, she said, account for over 70 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions worldwide." "Japan is one of the countries we have a partnership with," Dobriansky said,"and we have agreed to not only collaborate on science modeling and on market mechanisms but also on helping developing countries."

Other countries with bilateral agreements on climate change include New Zealand, China, India, the European Union, Australia, and Italy.

Both Turner and Dobriansky highlighted the need to improve understanding of the climate system. "As President Bush said, we need to learn. We do not have all of the answers about climate, nor can we precisely predict changes in climate or the degree to which human activity affects that change," Dobriansky said in the now familiar Bush administration explanation of its position.

The answer, both officials said, lies in the Earth observation system.

United States hosted the first Earth Observation Summit in July 2003 to generate international support for an initiative to link thousands of individual technological assets around the globe in a coordinated and comprehensive global Earth observation system.

Turner told his Stockholm audience that the Bush administration is "delighted" that Sweden has joined with the United States and 28 other countries in developing an Earth observation system. "This system will be a pivotal element in understanding climate change and working to combat it."

Dobriansky said the observation system is needed, "Because there is a need for a standardization. If you have better information then you will be able to take more targeted and early action, she said, turning the administration's delay of emissions reductions until the science is precise into the appearance of activity.

Both diplomats spent some time explaining the carbon sequestration science the Bush administration is encouraging to remove the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and both stressed the role of nuclear power in the future.

"Nuclear power has been a safe source of electricity in Asia, Europe, and the United States for decades, without greenhouse gas emissions," said Dobriansky. "By developing the next generation nuclear reactor, we have the opportunity to make even safer and more efficient power plants that can expand our energy choices."

And both lit up at the prospect of nuclear fusion, which the United States is working on with China, the European Union, Japan, Russia, and South Korea through the $5 billion International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor. If successful, the program could produce "clean and abundant energy by the middle of the century," said Dobriansky.

And Turner took a page from the environmentalists' book and quoted the great American naturalist John Muir, who said of the environment, "We all dwell in a house of one room."

"Muir's remarks remind us that we truly are global neighbors; that we share one planet," Turner said. "Let us come together as a global family to protect our precious shared resource."