Rusutsu, Japan: A rift over climate change widened on Monday as the head of the European Commission urged leaders of the world’s wealthy nations to act first in setting targets for reducing greenhouse gases — putting US president George W. Bush in an increasingly lonely position.
Climate change has emerged as the most contentious issue at this year’s summit of the Group of Eight top industrialized nations, which began on Monday, and is expected to be the focus of debate when the G-8 leaders are joined on Wednesday by Chinese President Hu Jintao and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
China and India say it is up to the heavily polluting developed world to take the lead in the fight against global warming. But Bush says developing nations must take equal measures to make any deal work, and has shown little enthusiasm for setting goals without them. That position came under fire on Monday.
European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said the G-8 nations must reach agreement among themselves on climate change measures and avoid taking the approach that “I will do nothing unless you do it first,” which he called a vicious circle. “If we agree, then we are in a much better position to discuss with our Chinese and Indian partners and others,” Barroso said.
Because of dissent within the G-8 itself, it was unclear whether the leaders would be able to go much further this week than their ministers did in May. The G-8, which groups the US, Russia, France, Italy, Germany, Canada, Britain and Japan, accounts for about 40% of global carbon dioxide emissions today, according to environmental group Greenpeace.
More than other G-8 leaders, Bush has insisted on holding China and India to the same emission-reduction standards as nations that developed earlier.
“I’ve always advocated that there needs to be a common understanding and that starts with a goal. And I also am realistic enough to tell you that if China and India don’t share that same aspiration, that we’re not going to solve the problem,” Bush said at a pre-summit news conference on Sunday.
Angela Doland contributed to this story.