Thursday, May 31, 2007

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A new global warming initiative, or just more hot air?

The Financial Times' Andrew Ward reports that with the G8 summit approaching, the Bush administration is contemplating a new initiative to combat global warming.

President George W. Bush on Thursday committed the US for the first time to take part in negotiations on a successor to the Kyoto treaty and agreed to set goals for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

The decision appeared to mark a landmark break by Washington from its longstanding opposition to global limits on carbon emissions, although the US plans still fall short of some European demands.

Mr Bush pledged to work with several other large economies, including China and India, to agree a “long-term goal” for reduction in emissions, together with strategies for achieving the target, within 18 months – before he leaves office in January 2009.

An administration official said the US would seek to convene a conference to set the process in motion, possibly as early as this autumn.

The process would complement broader international efforts to agree a replacement for the Kyoto treaty when it expires in 2012, said the official....

The policy shift came less than a week before Mr Bush travels to Germany for the annual G8 meeting of industrialised nations, where climate change is expected to be high on the agenda.

The Washington Post's William Branigin and Juliet Eilperin add more reportage, suggesting that this won't be as big a policy shift as the Europeans would like:
The administration's plan involves cutting tariff barriers to the sharing of environmental technology and holding a series of meetings, starting this fall, on ways to limit greenhouse gas emissions by an agreed amount by about 2050. Bush wants this target to be set by the end of 2008.

The White House made clear, however, that the administration would continue to reject proposals advanced by European nations to deal with global warming through caps on carbon emissions and a global carbon-trading program that would allow countries to meet limits on carbon dioxide levels by buying and selling credits.

"We do not endorse global carbon trading," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters before Bush's speech.

Here's the key portion from Bush's actual speech:
So my proposal is this: By the end of next year, America and other nations will set a long-term global goal for reducing greenhouse gases.

To help develop this goal, the United States would convene a series of meetings of nations that produced most greenhouse gas emissions, including nations with rapidly growing economies like India and China.

In addition to this long-term global goal, each country would establish mid-term national targets and programs that reflect their own mix of energy sources and future energy needs.

Over the course of the next 18 months, our nations would bring together industry leaders from sectors of our economies, such as power generation and alternative fuels and transportation. These leaders will form working groups that will cooperate on ways to share clean energy technology and best practices.

Will this amount to anything? The Economist is skeptical, observing that, "Even the G8 members that are enthusiastically embracing ambitious targets are struggling to cut their emissions."

I'm also skeptical for reasons I've discussed in the past.

That said, if Bush can even convince China and India to attend this proposed meeting, he'll have achieved a significant political victory. Why? Because by their very attendance, China and India will be implicitly acknowledging that they are part of the global warming problem.

Their other option is to embrace the OxFam solution to the problem, which concludes that, "the USA, European Union, Japan, Canada, and Australia should contribute over 95 per cent of the finance needed. This finance must not be counted towards meeting the UN-agreed target of 0.7 per cent for aid."

I predict that the G8 will agree to this plan at roughly the same time John Bolton is elected to be the Secretary-General of the United Nations.


posted by Dan on 05.31.07 at 01:39 PM


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