Bush Seeks To Change U.S. Image On Global Warming

Friday, September 28th 2007, 7:39 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Bush called on the world's worst polluters Friday to come together to set a goal for reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing the climate to heat up. He didn't exempt his own country from the list.

``By setting this goal, we acknowledge there is a problem, and by setting this goal, we commit ourselves to doing something about it,'' Bush said in a speech that capped two days of talks at a White House-sponsored climate change conference. ``We share a common responsibility: to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while keeping our economies growing.''

He said each nation should establish for itself what methods it will use to rein in the pollution problem without stunting economic growth.

The gathering drew together U.S. representatives with those of 15 other nations, including big producers from the developing world like China and India as well as the European Union and United Nations. Bush's emphasis is on using green technologies and other voluntary efforts to tackle global warming. The president said the reduction goal should be finalized by next summer, along with ways to measure progress toward it.

He also proposed the creation of an international fund to finance research into clean-energy technology, announcing that U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson would coordinate the effort and would be in touch with other governments soon about moving forward.

``Each nation must decide for itself the right mix of tools and technology to achieve results that are measurable and environmentally effective,'' Bush said.

In his speech, Bush acknowledged that climate change is real and that human activity is a factor.

But he refuses to sign onto mandatory emission-reduction obligations, preferring to encourage the development of new technologies and other voluntary measures, and won't participate in any talks toward a global agreement that do not include energy guzzlers from the developing world.

As a result, many have suggested that the U.S.-brokered process is aimed at undermining broader talks sponsored by the United Nations, set to begin in Indonesia in December, to draw up a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. That U.N. treaty was rejected by the administration because, Bush said, it unfairly harmed the economies of rich nations like the United States while excluding poorer countries like China and India from obligations.

The U.N. negotiations emphasize mandatory controls.

Europeans and environmentalists were disappointed.

``One of the striking features of this meeting is how isolated this administration has become. There is absolutely no suppport that I can see in the international comunity that we can drive this effort on the basis of voluntary efforts,'' John Ashton, a special representative on climate change for the British foreign secretary, said in an interview. ``I don't think that this meeting by itself moves the ball very much at all. The much more significant meeting this week was at the U.N., where there was a sense of urgency.''

German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel gave the equivalent of two cheers _ not three _ for Bush.

``This here was a great step for the Americans and a small step for mankind,'' he said. ``In substance, we are still far apart.''

The ball is now Congress' court, said Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense, who was one of the few outsiders to address the panel of government ministers at the meeting.

``Congress needs to lead. The president is not giving us the leadership we need. Ultimately what we need are mandatory caps,'' Krupp said. ``No air pollution problem in the world has ever been solved without having legal limits.''

At the same time, the fact that the United States was taking a role in the process, and a leading one, was heartening to some.

Until recently, said Emil Salim, an economist and member of the Indonesian president's council of advisers, Bush offered ``no dialogue on the Kyoto Protocol whatsoever. This time, the members of the Kyoto Protocol are invited to discuss. So from that point of view, there is some improvement,'' he said in an interview. ``But on the other hand, I think it has more to do with the domestic politics, because you have election.''

Yvo de Boer, the top U.N. climate official, told the 16 nations participating in the White House-led meeting that ``this relatively small group of countries holds a key to tackling a big part of the problem'' but that their response can succeed only by ``going well beyond present efforts,'' especially among rich, industrialized nations.

Bush said the United States is serious about global warming and is committed to making progress itself to slow its growth rate in carbon dioxide and other industrial warming gases as well as to seeing a global deal cut.

``By working together we will set wise and effective policies,'' he said. ``I want to get the job done. We've identified a problem. Let's go solve it together.''

Bush's administration has seemed more sensitive of late to perceptions in other parts of the world that the U.S. government either does not take the phenomenon of global warming seriously _ or seriously enough.

Bush's two-day conference, ending Friday, followed a U.N. meeting Monday at which Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon tried to build support among 80 world leaders for reaching agreement at the planned December talks. Other participants in Bush's talks included representatives from Australia, Canada, Brazil, Britain, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, Japan, Russia, South Africa and South Korea.