Bush: ‘Significant progress’ on climate change
the associated press
TOYAKO, Japan ” President Bush on Wednesday hailed the move by G-8 leaders to coalesce behind a broad climate-change strategy, saying in a valedictory to summitry that “significant progress” has been made on global warming.
“In order to address climate change, all major economies must be at the table, and that’s what took place today,” Bush said. Environmentalists said the summit’s broad pledge to work toward slashing greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2050 did not go far enough.
In fact, five of the developing nations at the expanded meeting ” China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa ” issued their own statement rejecting the notion that all share in the 50-percent reduction goal. “It is essential that developed countries take the lead in achieving ambitious and absolute greenhouse gas emissions reductions,” said the statement.
“We’re not in complete convergence yet,” acknowledged Jim Connaughton, one of Bush’s top environmental advisers.
It was, nevertheless, the first time that heads of state from the U.S. and the seven other major economic powerhouses sat down to talk about global warming at the same table with China, India and six other emerging economies. Altogether the 16 countries are responsible for spewing 80 percent of the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Bush’s position represented quite a progression for a president who in his first term disputed scientists’ assertions about global warming. This time, he heartily backed the broad goal stated by his summit partners.
“We made clear, and the other nations agreed, that they must also participate in an ambitious goal,” Bush said, “with an interim goal, with interim plans to enable the world to successfully address climate change. And we made significant progress toward a comprehensive approach.”
The leaders couldn’t agree on additional specific numerical targets, though. And not everybody signed onto the 2050 goal.
In a statement that Bush read to reporters here, he reiterated his position that substantial progress will likely hinge on further development of clean energy technologies. Developing nations, he said, will need assistance so they can become “good stewards of the environment.”
The president praised his fellow summit leaders for their work, not only on climate change but also on advancing the so-called Doha Round of negotiations on opening markets to free trade and on their cooperation with U.S. efforts to help poor nations combat disease and food shortages.
The G-8 nations are the U.S., Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Canada, Japan and Russia.
It was Bush’s last G-8 summit, and the meeting here, along with his talks on the sidelines of the summit, presented a mixed scorecard for him to take home. Bush saw fellow G-8 leaders essentially embrace his argument that a comprehensive global warming strategy must include participation by developing nations as well as the leading industrialized democracies.
But he ran into opposition to talk of trade sanctions against President Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe for an election that Bush has labeled a “sham” balloting. And he made no headway in resolving differences with Russia over U.S. plans to put a missile defense system in Eastern Europe.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said in a separate talk with reporters that that American defense system “deeply distresses” Moscow and he accused Washington of engaging in “halfhearted negotiations that have come to nothing.”
Bush held one-on-one talks with several other world leaders, including China’s President Hu Jintao, whom he assured he was excited about going to the Beijing Olympics later this summer. Hu told Bush he was grateful that he hadn’t politicized the event because of China’s crackdown in Tibet.
In an early morning meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Bush defended a languishing deal his administration negotiated to sell India nuclear fuel and technology. The deal, which would reverse three decades of U.S. policy by allowing the sale of atomic fuel and technology to India, faces significant opposition on both sides.
Bush took no questions from reporters at the closing of the meeting. Nor did he address criticisms that emerged about the G-8’s positions, such as the contention by some environmentalists that the G-8 stance on global warming amounted to political window-dressing.
But he did say he and his summit partners had “served both our interests as Americans, and we’ve served the interests of the world.”
Bush was instrumental in broadening the global warming discussions beyond the G-8 membership. But he won’t be in office long enough to see the next chapter of the contentious climate change debate play out.
Environmentalists deplored the statement the leaders released after the meeting, saying it was meaningless without any targets.
“To be meaningful and credible, a long-term goal must have a base year, it must be underpinned by ambitious midterm targets and actions,” said Marthinus van Schalkwyk, South African Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, who called the G-8 statement an “empty slogan.”
The discussion on global warming is a run-up to U.N.-led efforts to craft a new climate change accord at a meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December 2009. That new accord would succeed the Kyoto Protocol that starts to expire in 2012.
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