Bush Seeks New International Framework on Climate Change
Washington – The United States will work with other countries to establish a new international framework to address global climate change once the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.
Under an initiative unveiled May 31 by President Bush, 10 to 15 countries that consumer the most energy and emit the largest quantities of greenhouse gases would discuss a post-Kyoto arrangement at international meetings convened initially by the United States.
By 2009, at the end of the first phase, the countries would set a long-term global goal for reducing emissions that contribute to global climate change and establish related national mid-term energy security and environmental goals and strategies based on the nations’ individual characteristics.
Bush said a strong and transparent system for measuring countries’ performance must be an essential element of the new plan.
Under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, industrialized countries committed to make specific cuts in emissions of gases such as carbon dioxide that contribute to global warming. The cuts are made primarily through a “cap-and-trade” mechanism in which nations set industry caps on emissions and then allow emitters to buy or sell emissions credits to meet targets.
The United States has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol, which it believes can constrain economic growth and will achieve little because it does not include countries in the developing world such as China and India that emit large quantities of greenhouse gases.
The U.S. initiative aims to complement broader international discussions under the auspices of the United Nations on a replacement for the Kyoto agreement, according to U.S. officials.
The president launched his climate change initiative roughly a week ahead of the June 6-8 Summit of Group of Eight (G8) countries in Germany where global climate change is expected to be among major topics discussed. The G8 comprises Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and Russia.
“The United States takes this issue seriously,” Bush said.
He said the global community can meet the double challenge of energy security and climate change through technology.
The United States has been in the forefront in technology development, investing more than $12 billion over the past six years in research on clean-energy technology, according to official U.S. sources.
But more needs to be done worldwide to bring technology up to a level capable of meeting the global challenge, the president said.
Bush said he will encourage other G8 leaders to increase investment in clean energy research and discuss with them measures to promote such investment in developing countries.
To facilitate a large-scale transfer of technologies to countries where they are most needed, the president proposed to conclude by the end of 2007 talks on eliminating tariffs and other barriers to trade in clean-energy technologies and services. This effort would be part of the Doha round of global trade negotiations conducted under the auspices of the World Trade Organization.
In addition, Bush said, “we’ll help the world’s poorest nations reduce emissions by giving them government-developed technologies at low cost or, in some cases, no cost at all.”
DIFFERENT WAYS TO A COMMON GOAL
Bush’s environmental adviser, James Connaughton, said the G8 countries are “very close” to an agreement on the climate change issue.
With the Bush’s initiative, he said at a May 31 White House briefing, U.S. partners will have a clearer sense of how the G8 can develop a framework.
The real challenge for the group is to involve large emerging-market countries, which also consume large amounts of energy and emit substantial quantities of greenhouse gases, he said.
Connaughton said those countries are open to ideas that can make a difference in their energy balance and environmental quality, but are reluctant to commit to abstract goals.
Under Secretary of State Paula Dobriansky said the United States believes its approach to global climate change – a mix of voluntary commitments and mandates - is working.
The Bush administration appreciates, however, a variety of strategies to deal with global warming, she said, because “there is no silver bullet to address climate change.”
She acknowledged that a cap-and-trade approach preferred by Europeans does work when caps are realistic and compliance technologies are available and affordable.
But “these particular circumstances do not exist for carbon dioxide [yet],” Dobriansky said.
A transcript of Connaughton’s briefing is available on the White House Web site.