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Action plan or stalling tactic? Key questions in global crisis

The Guardian
President Bush says the US is now a global leader on climate change. But how effective will his proposals be?

1 What did President Bush announce?

That the US will convene a series of meetings of the world’s most polluting countries to discuss action on climate change. By the end of next year, it says, these countries will agree and set a long-term goal to reduce greenhouse gases. Each country will also have an interim national target and they will cooperate to promote clean technology.

… 3 He has been pressured to change his position, so does this represent a shift?

Yes and no. The language the president used yesterday on new frameworks and setting global goals would have been unthinkable a year ago. During UN negotiations in Montreal in 2005, the US team stormed out when the idea was raised. Gone are the questions about the science and the emphasis on the uncertainties, replaced with an explicit acknowledgement that climate change is a serious problem. As Stephen Hale, head of the Green Alliance, puts it: “Every shift from George Bush on climate change, however small, is to be celebrated.” That is certainly the view of Downing Street, which last night hailed Mr Bush’s words as an important step.

But is it a step forward? Green campaigners were less confident. They are concerned that the US appears to have snubbed the existing negotiations and set up a parallel process. Tony Juniper, of Friends of the Earth, said: “He had to respond and his way of responding is to create these meetings as a way of giving the impression of doing something right up until he leaves office. He’s stuck two fingers up at Tony Blair and if I was in Downing Street, then I’d be furious.”

There was little detail from President Bush on what the global goal would be…
(1 June 2007)

The Emperor’s Green Clothes
Marc Pitzke, Der Spiegel (Germany)
In presenting his own proposal to deal with greenhouse gas emissions just days before next week’s G-8 summit, Bush is trying to look like a leader on climate change in the hope of outmaneuvering Europe and his critics. But his plan is purposely vague and his ideas stale.

Many Americans had no idea until today that their government and those of the other Group of Eight (G-8) countries were locked in a bitter battle over global warming. The US media has studiously avoided the issue. The New York Times has ignored it for weeks, the Washington Post covered it with one short article and USA Today contented itself with a wire report from the Associated Press. Meanwhile the television networks have apparently decided to run absolutely nothing on the issue.

But that’s suddenly changed overnight. “Bush Alters Climate Dynamics” proclaimed a headline in the Friday edition of the Wall Street Journal, after the paper had previously dismissed the G-8 climate change proposal with only news agency reports. Ditto for the New York Times: “Bush Calls for Global Goal for Cutting Emissions.” CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer compliantly went even further, saying: “Bush goes green.” Bush the environmental trailblazer?

These reactions already say a lot about the intention behind Bush’s climate change “proposal” (more…) from Thursday. Bush wants to take the high ground in the news cycle back home before he heads to next week’s G-8 summit in Germany and ends up looking like a global warming black sheep again.

…It’s a clever PR move. Back home in America, Bush can present himself as the decisive leader he so yearns to be, giving the voters the impression that he has launched an offensive in the climate change debate — a debate that has long since moved on however, even here in the US. And in Europe the plan is intended to take the wind from the sails of G-8 critics — if they attack his proposal, they will now be the ones that risk being labeled as “rejectionist.”
(1 June 2007)

Bush climate plan is met with suspicion

Brad Knickerbocker, Christian Science Monitor
On the eve of the Group of Eight (G-8) summit, the White House tries to gain the diplomatic initiative on climate change.
On the eve of the Group of Eight (G-8) summit in Germany June 6-8, President Bush is trying to gain the diplomatic initiative on climate change. For the moment, most political actors and expert analysts remain skeptical.

“The new American initiative seems an admission that its previous strategy has failed,” says The Economist magazine in its analysis of Mr. Bush’s proposal.

Referring to plans put forth by German Chancellor Angela Merkel (who will host the G-8 meeting), other European countries, and the European Union, the Economist observes:

“All these proposals are much more ambitious than America’s, and it will take a lengthy debate – and perhaps another president – to reconcile them.”

Under the Bush plan, “the US would convene meetings over the next year among the world’s 15 greatest polluters,” reports The Times of London. “These would set their own, looser goals for reducing emissions – but allow individual nations to develop different strategies for meeting them.”
(1 June 2007)
CSM reporter Brad Knickerbocker is making good use of a blog format, as he gathers stories from around the world. -BA

Bush’s Climate-Change Feint

Dan Froomkin, Washington Post
The White House yesterday showed that it still knows how to play the American press like a harp.

President Bush yesterday put forth a new proposal on climate change that is most newsworthy for its attempt to muddy the debate about the issue and derail European and U.N. plans for strict caps on emissions. Bush’s proposal calls for a new round of international meetings that would nearly outlast his presidency. The purpose of the meetings would not be to set caps on emissions, but to establish what the White House — uncorking a bold new euphemism — calls “aspirational goals.”

But a change in rhetoric was enough to generate some headlines about the administration’s attention to the issue: Bush Proposes Goals on Greenhouse Gas Emissions, reads the New York Times headline. Bush Proposes Talks on Warming, says The Washington Post’s front page. Bush offers to take climate lead, proclaims the Los Angeles Times.

For a more pointed view of Bush’s statement, let’s travel across the Atlantic, where the style of journalism is less constrained than in the States.
(1 June 2007)

Bush’s emission plan ‘a delaying tactic’

Peter Walker and agencies, Guardian
Environmental groups today condemned George Bush’s proposed global plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, labelling it a stalling tactic lacking concrete details.

The US president’s proposals, outlined in a speech yesterday, appeared to cast severe doubt on international efforts for a UN-brokered successor to the Kyoto protocol on climate change, which ends in 2012.

It also seemingly hit European hopes before a G8 summit in Germany next week that industrialised nations will make a firm commitment to halving their emissions by 2050.

Environmentalists on both sides of the Atlantic condemned Mr Bush’s speech as vague and insubstantial and unlikely to herald any real progress before he leaves office at the start of 2009.

“This is a classic spoiler,” said Robin Oakley from Greenpeace. “The G8 should be debating global mandatory emissions caps, not facilitating an ad hoc conference hastily proposed by Bush that’s designed to kick this issue into the long grass until he leaves office.”

The Friends of the Earth director, Tony Juniper, called the US plan “a transparent attempt to derail negotiations that are already going on in the G8 and the United Nations.
(1 June 2007)