EU lukewarm on Bush’s new climate proposals

While welcoming the US initiative as a step in the right direction, EU leaders stressed that any future deal must be agreed within the framework of the United Nations and accompanied by “binding, measurable and enforceable targets”.

Commission President José Manuel Barroso commented on US President George W. Bush’s new climate-change proposal on 1 June, describing it as a “commitment to ambition for the G8 on climate change” and a “step in the right direction” in terms of long-term goals. But Barroso also reiterated the importance of a “multilateral process” under United Nations auspices, stressing the importance of an internationall legally binding framework rather than voluntary commitments. 

Bush’s new climate-change proposal comes only one week before the 6-8 June G8 summit in Heiligendamm, Germany, during which G8 leaders are expected to discuss international climate change co-operation beyond the 2012 expiry date of the Kyoto Protocol, signed by 35 industrialised countries. The United States has refused to sign the protocol, which requires a reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions to 5% below 1990 levels. 

The US proposal, which focuses on the role of clean technologies and biofuels and does not propose any binding greenhouse-gas emissions limits, is widely seen as an attempt by the US to sidestep wider international co-operation on climate change. It makes no mention of the EU objective to limit global-temperature rises to 2° Celsius, and keeps up with the Bush administration’s long-standing claim that the Kyoto Protocol would harm the US economy, choosing instead to firmly place the emphasis on enhancing energy security and promoting economic growth (EURACTIV 01/06/07). 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who will host the G8 summit, has said that the US proposal signals a “chance” for progress on climate-change policy. But Merkel has also made it clear that she believes a United Nations role in overseeing such an agreement is “non-negotiable”, and that she is opposed to any “shabby compromises”. 

Disagreements between the US and the EU on how to tackle climate change have been heated in recent months. The German government had prepared a draft climate change communiqué to be presented at the G8 summit. In response, the US sent a letter to the German government, citing its strong disapproval of the text and that it crossed a number of “red lines” with respect to the capacity of the US to co-operate on climate change. The dispute has led to speculation that the G8 summit is unlikely to produce any substantial deal on climate change (EURACTIV 29/05/07).

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