By Olivier Knox, AFP
WASHINGTON: US President George W. Bush and visiting European leaders agreed to define global warming as a serious problem requiring “urgent” action, but were deadlocked on what concrete remedies to apply.
German Chancellor Merkel, who holds the rotating presidencies of the EU and the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized nations, appeared to give a positive assessment of her talks with Bush and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, however.
“I think this is where we should be clear about the glass being half full instead of half empty,” she said at a joint public appearance on the sidelines of the annual US-EU summit at the White House.
Earlier on 30 April, 400 of the world’s leading climate change experts in Bangkok kicked off the week-long third session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the UN’s leading authority on global warming.
That session aims to thrash out a master plan on limiting the worst impacts of global warming, but faces deep divisions over how to go about it.
In a joint statement on energy security and climate change, the three leaders in Washington meanwhile called for “urgent, sustained, global action” to battle global warming.
“We are determined to ensure access to affordable, clean, and secure sources of energy to underpin sustainable global economic growth and to protect our environment,” said a joint statement issued by the White House after the talks.
“Tackling the challenge of energy security will also require unprecedented international cooperation” on energy, it said.
The leaders said they had set up a US-EU conference on alternative-fuel standards to meet here next year, and plans to take up climate change at the June G8 summit in Germany.
Merkel also said they had agreed on the need for “a proper agenda” for UN talks on the environment in December on the Indonesian island of Bali.
Bush said no solution is possible unless it includes major developing nations like China and India but seemed to suggest Washington would find its own way.
“Each country needs to recognize that we must reduce our greenhouse gases and deal, obviously, with their own internal politics to come up with an effective strategy that hopefully . . . leads to a real reduction,” he said.
Bush called earlier this year for a 20-% cut in gasoline use over 10 years. The 27 EU members agreed in March to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20 % by 2020, based on 1990 levels. Germany’s proposal was a more aggressive 40 % cut.
“If the developed countries, who have the best technology, don’t do anything, it will be even harder to convince the others,” Merkel warned. “But without convincing the others, CO2 emissions worldwide will not go down.”
Other planned measures mentioned in the White House closing statement included building clean coal plants and exploring carbon dioxide “capture and storage” technology for reducing harmful emissions.
On another issue, Merkel and the two other leaders formed a united front on Iran’s nuclear program, which Washington says is cover for an atomic weapons quest.
“We talked about Iran and the need for our nations to continue to work closely together to send a unified message to the Iranians that their development of a nuclear weapon is unacceptable to peace,” said Bush.
“Nuclear proliferation is indeed a threat, not only to regional stability but to the global peace and global stability,” said Barroso.
The leaders also discussed a range of international issues, including efforts to revive the Doha Round of global trade talks, rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan, the Middle East peace process, and the war-torn western Sudan region of Darfur.
On trade, the EU’s External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner highlighted a “new Framework for advancing Transatlantic Economic Integration” signed at the summit.
This “will be a major advance, laying the long-term foundation for a stronger transatlantic economy,” she said in a statement.