Bush rejects concrete action on climate change

Frustrating the European Union, President George W. Bush once again rejected the Kyoto Protocol and presented his new plan for combating climate change which makes no compulsory commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

In his first presidential visit to Europe, on 14 June, George W. Bush once again crushed any hopes EU leaders may have had that he would be willing to rethink his Kyoto pullout when he once again rejected it at a press conference with the Swedish Prime Minister and the EC’s President in Gothenburg, Sweden. “We didn’t feel like the Kyoto Treaty was well-balanced. It didn’t include developing nations. The goals were not realistic,” Bush said.

Not only did the president refuse to commit to concrete reductions of greenhouse gases, but he also revealed that the US only intends to “stabilise emissions”, with his promised strategy for climate change, revealed on 11 June, as environmentalists had feared also containing no targets. The President did, however, admit that he now accepts the existence of the phenomenon, following the publication of a scientific report requested by the Bush administration.

“We recognise the responsibility to reduce our emissions,” Bush said. “We also recognise the other part of the story – that the rest of the world emits 80% of all greenhouse gases. And many of those emissions come from developing countries. The world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases is China. Yet, China was entirely exempted from the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol. India and Germany are among the top emitters. Yet, India was also exempt from Kyoto.” The president then went on to say that he wanted to “work cooperatively with these countries in their efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions and maintain economic growth” and also criticised the Protocol for failing to “address two major pollutants that have an impact on warming: black soot and tropospheric ozone”.

The “initial steps” proposed by Bush’s working group on climate change includes “significant emission reductions made possible by implementing the clean energy technologies proposed in our energy plan” , the president said. Bush also announced the establishment of a US Climate Change Research Initiative to “study areas of uncertainty and identify priority areas where investments can make a difference”, which he promised would make US investment in science even greater than the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Initiative will strengthen research at universities and national labs, enhance partnerships in applied research, develop improved technology for measuring and monitoring gross and net greenhouse gas emissions, and fund demonstration projects for cutting-edge technologies, such as bioreactors and fuel cells, Bush said.

Under the strategy there will also be fully funded “high-priority areas for climate change science” over the next five years, resources to build climate observation systems in developing countries and a proposed joint venture with the EU, Japan and others to develop state-of-the-art climate modelling to better understand the causes and impacts of climate change. Bush also mentioned increased useage of ‘market-based’ initiatives such as carbon ‘sinks’, the effectiveness of which has been cast into doubt  and said that the US would still attend next month’s climate talks in Bonn for “continued discussions”.

Sweden’s prime minister, Goran Persson, summed up European anger and frustrations at the Gothenburg meeting, which was picketed by 12,000 protesters at Bush’s stance on Kyoto and defence. “We don’t agree upon how we regard the Kyoto Protocol. The European Union will stick to the Kyoto Protocol and go for a ratification process. The US has chosen another policy.”

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