Paris: George W Bush’s 11th-hour initiative on climate change has severely roiled international waters, threatening to plunge the G8 summit of industrialized economies into a stormy debate over how best to keep the planet from overheating.
The US president’s call for a “new framework” in which the world’s biggest carbon polluters will set long-term goals for curbing greenhouse gases was especially unsettling for summit host German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is seeking to forge a binding pact to cap world temperature rises.
Currently president of both G8 and European Union, Merkel reacted to Bush’s statement by drawing a line in the sand. Keeping negotiations on reducing global carbon emissions within the existing UN structure, she insisted, was “non-negotiable.”
Bush said he intends to expand on the Asia-Pacific Partnership, a technology-oriented, multilateral organization -- including China and India -- set up by US in 2005.
Merkel also seems determined to anchor two other climate change objectives in a joint G8 communique: cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 50% compared to 1990 levels before 2050, and holding global temperature rises to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by century’s end.
The UN’s top panel of climate scientists has predicted that increases beyond that threshold could unleash catastrophic consequences ranging from an increase in violent storms to severe drought to rising sea levels.
US diplomats have already deleted both these targets from a draft document prepared by Germany, commenting in red ink that “there is only so far we can go, given our fundamental opposition to the German position.”
Experts differ on whether Merkel will ultimately settle for a watered-down accord that might smooth the way for UN-sponsored negotiations in December.
“The question is whether Merkel and Tony Blair will stick to their positions no matter what, or if they will be satisfied with a minimal declaration,” said Philip Clapp of the National Environmental Trust in Washington.
“There is an increasing likelihood of the talks not leading to a consensus but a chair’s summary or statement that uses the phrase: ‘those of us who have ratified the Kyoto Protocol´...” commented World Wildlife Fund Climate Director Hans Verole.
The Kyoto Protocol is the only treaty in force that mandates a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The 35 industrialized nations that have ratified it are required to make targeted cuts in emissions by 2012.
US is a signatory, but it opted out of the treaty because it does not include rapidly developing nations. China which has been invited to attend the summit along with India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa is set to overtake the US as the world’s top carbon polluter within a year or two.
The Bush administration favours a system of voluntary greenhouse gas reductions in which each nation sets its own polices and goals. It is hostile to the mandatory caps and the global carbon-trading regime favored by the European Union.
According to the Bush plan, countries could set “mid-term national targets and programmes” depending on “their own mix of energy sources and future energy needs.” Though experts have criticised the absence of enforceable measures in the Bush proposal.