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Bush’s Conversion?

Posted June. 02, 2007 03:25,   


U.S. President George W. Bush proposed negotiations for improving the environment to some 15 major greenhouse gas emitters, including China and India, in a departure from his steadfast opposition to signing on to the Kyoto Protocol signed in 1997 to reduce heat-trapping gas emissions.

In his speech on May 31, Bush urged the 15 major emitters to join the U.S. in coming up with a long-term strategy needed for reducing heat-trapping gas emissions after 2012, when the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol ends.

The U.S. president proposed to launch negotiations among the 15 countries late this year and to cut tariffs on clean energy technologies. The reduction of tariffs seems to be aimed at enabling the transfer of environment-related technologies to developing countries at a lower cost.

The proposal, which came prior to the G-8 summit scheduled for June 6 to 8 in Germany, immediately invited mixed responses.

The outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair welcomed the move. An online article from Foreign Policy said, “The U.S. is expected to back down from pressure from the international community and make an effort to replace the Kyoto Protocol.”

The Kyoto agreement adopted in 1997 is about cutting carbon emissions from 35 developed countries down to the 1990 level by 2012. But the U.S. refused to sign the treaty, citing that it acts as burden on the U.S. economy and that China and India are excluded because they are developing countries.

A former “oil businessman,” Bush, has not paid much attention to environmental issues. However, he officially said in 2005, “Humans affect the environment,” and began to show interest in environmental issues in January this year, saying, “Climate change is real,” in his State of the Union speech.

But the British daily Independence dismissed the move, saying, “It is no more than rhetoric to water down the criticism against his opposition to sign on to the Kyoto treaty.”

Daniel J. Weiss, senior fellow and director of climate strategy at the Center for American Progress, criticized, “The president didn’t mention emissions reduction before 2012 and just focused on the ‘long-term task’ in the post-2012 period,” adding, “This means that he won’t do anything.” Environmental groups, including Greenpeace, said, “The attempt to induce participation from China and India draws attention. But the chances of reaching an agreement are low.”

The New York Times said, “The negotiations for the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol are scheduled to begin in Bali, Indonesia at the end of this year,” adding, “Bush’s proposal risks being seen as an attempt to derail the negotiations.”