G8: Bush Proposes Talks on Voluntary Global Goal for Greenhouse Gases

WASHINGTON, DC, May 31, 2007 (ENS) - President George W. Bush today said the United States wants to establish a new framework on greenhouse gas emissions for when the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. Outlining his plans for the G8 Summit next week in Germany, the President said the United States will propose a series of meetings with nations that produce the most emissions, including India and China.

"By the end of next year, America and other nations will set a long-term global goal for reducing greenhouse gases," Bush told a meeting of the United States Global Leadership Campaign, a coalition of more than 400 corporate, humanitarian and development member organizations.

In addition to this long-term global goal, "each country would establish midterm national targets," Bush said, as well as and programs that reflect its individual mix of energy sources and future energy needs.
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President George W. Bush announces his plan for global warming meetings at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Center in Washington, DC. (Photo courtesy U.S. Global Leadership Campaign)
"Over the course of the next 18 months, our nations would bring together industry leaders from different sectors of our economies, such as power generation and alternative fuels and transportation," said Bush. "These leaders will form working groups that will cooperate on ways to share clean energy technology and best practices."

A "strong and transparent system for measuring each country's performance," would be established, Bush said, but gave no indication that his proposal includes binding, mandatory targets for greenhouse gas reductions.

Critics were quick to point out that the international community is already moving towards a post-Kyoto agreement for mandatory emissions reductions under the auspices of the United Nations and does not need this parallel process to discuss voluntary global warming emissions-cutting goals.

"This plan doesn't actually take a large bite out of global warming pollution like we need to, but instead just 're-warms' old ideas," said Congressman Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who chairs the newly formed House of Representatives Select Committee on Energy Independence And Global Warming.
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Representative Ed Markey of Massachusetts is chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence And Global Warming. (Photo courtesy Office of the Congressman)
"It's vitally important for America and this president to re-engage internationally on this issue, and agree to binding targets for reducing heat-trapping pollution," Markey said. "Instead, all that President Bush is willing to do is engage in fruitless discussions until the very end of his administration, leaving his successor with the task of actually doing something."

President Bush said the new framework would help nations, including the United States, fulfill their responsibilities under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change."

"The United States will work with all nations that are part of this Convention to adapt to the impacts of climate change, gain access to clean and more energy-efficient technologies, and promote sustainable forestry and agriculture," he said.

Long a global warming skeptic, Bush now says, "In recent years, science has deepened our understanding of climate change and opened new possibilities for confronting it. The United States takes this issue seriously."

Reiterating that his administration has spent more than $12 billion in research on clean energy technology, Bush once again emphasized his intention to promote clean coal and nuclear technology.

"If you're truly interested in cleaning up the environment, or interested in renewable sources of energy, the best way to do so is through safe nuclear power," Bush said.
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Exelon's Braidwood nuclear power station is located in northeastern Illinois, about 60 miles southwest of Chicago. (Photo courtesy Exelon)
While President Bush and administration officials invariably refer to nuclear power as "clean, safe nuclear power" many problems still exist. The Exelon Braidwood Nuclear Facility in Illinois, for instance, has released radioactive tritium into the groundwater surrounding the power plant.

Critics say that while nuclear power plants may not emit greenhouse gases directly because no fossil fuels are burned to generate power, there is still no good solution to the radioactive waste generated by nuclear plants and they are potential terrorist targets.

"If we can get a breakthrough in clean coal technologies," President Bush said, "it's going to help the developing world immeasurably, and at the same time, help protect our environment."

Bush also mentioned the administration's investments in solar and wind power and hybrid and clean diesel vehicles and biodiesel fuel for transportation.

The President cited a Department of Energy report last week showing that in 2006, U.S. carbon emissions decreased by 1.3 percent while the economy grew by 3.3 percent. "This experience shows that a strong and growing economy can deliver both a better life for its people and a cleaner environment at the same time," said Bush.

The President is hoping to turn the G8 summit into an economic opportunity to better the U.S. economy by selling U.S. energy technology.

"At the G8 summit, I'm going to encourage world leaders to increase their own investments in research and development," he said.

"We're also going to work to conclude talks with other nations on eliminating tariffs and other barriers to clean energy technologies and services by the end of year," Bush said.

If you are truly committed to helping the environment, nations need to get rid of their tariffs, need to get rid of those barriers that prevent new technologies from coming into their countries. We'll help the world's poorest nations reduce emissions by giving them government-developed technologies at low cost, or in some case, no cost at all.

He plans to discuss ways to encourage more investment in developing nations by making low-cost financing options for clean energy a priority of the international development banks. In the case of the poorest nations, he proposes to give U.S. technology without charge.
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President Bush discusses global warming and clean energy technology. (Photo by Shealah Craighead courtesy The White House)
President Bush said, "The United States is taking the lead, and that's the message I'm going to take to the G8."

But the President has opposed any mandatory targets for greenhouse gas emissions cuts in the United States and his administration has a long record of international obstruction on global warming.

Recently administration officials have attempted to cut language from climate statements by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the G8 climate statement, which includes committing to mandatory targets to stabilize heat-trapping emissions.

President of the National Environmental Trust Philip Clapp said, "This is a transparent effort to divert attention from the President's refusal to accept any emissions reductions proposals at next week's G8 summit. After sitting out talks on global warming for years, the Bush administration doesn't have very much credibility with other governments on the issue.

"All the other industrialized nations have been trying for months to get the President to agree to an emissions reduction framework, and the White House has rejected every proposal," Clapp said. "The White House is just trying to hide the fact that the President is completely isolated among the G8 leaders by calling vaguely for some agreement next year, right before he leaves office."

Friends of the Earth USA is circulating a sign-on statement repudiating the Bush proposal announced today and apologizing to nations participating in the G8 meetings for the President's behavior.

The statement says, "On behalf of the United States of America, I apologize for the actions of our president, George W. Bush. His rejection of global warming measures to be endorsed at the upcoming G8 meeting is shameful, and does not represent my views or those of the American people."

Friends of the Earth will send the signatures and statements directly to the participating nations' G8 coordinating teams before next week's meeting - and hand deliver them to the German embassy in Washington on Tuesday, June 5.

All of the other G8 countries are Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, which means that they are legally bound to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 5.2 percent by the end of 2012.

The G8 countries are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. The European Commission attends G8 meetings as well.

This year they will be joined by the leaders of five rapidly developing nations - Brazil, China, India, Mexico, and South Africa - and the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

The leaders will gather June 6 to 8 at Germany's Baltic Sea resort of Heiligendamm.