Bush wants progress in clean technology
PRESIDENT George W. Bush has urged the world’s biggest polluters to develop clean technologies to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions while vowing that the US ‘‘ will do our part’’.
At a climate change meeting of 17 countries in Washington, Bush last week called for an international fund to help developing nations finance clean-energy projects, and said Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson would lead the effort.
The president didn’t endorse globally negotiated, mandatory carbon dioxide limits that many world leaders, law-makers and scientists say are needed to avoid the most damaging effects of global warming. European Union officials gave Bush’s address a lukewarm response and stressed that legally binding carbon cuts are needed in the fight against climate change.
‘‘ We can’t allow ourselves to lose any more time,’’ Mogens Peter Carl, the European Commission’s director-general for the environment, said at a news conference later.
The majority of the countries represented at the meeting held by the Bush administration, including developing nations such as China, favoured mandatory carbon reductions for all industrialised countries, Carl said.
Bush side-stepped the cap issue and touted his administration’s investments in cleanenergy research and his push for Congress to approve a 20 per cent cut in petrol usage.
‘‘ What I’m telling you is, we’ve got a strategy,’’ Bush told the gathering of representatives from countries including India, Germany and Brazil. ‘‘ We’ve got a comprehensive approach.’’
Bush’s speech capped a week of high-profile climate change events, including a one-day summit at the UN in New York on September 24. Bush’s comments marked his most comprehensive to date about earth’s rising temperatures and sea levels.
‘‘ Our understanding of climate change has come a long way,’’ said Bush, who has previously questioned the science behind climate change.
He focused on linking the problems of climate change and energy independence. ‘‘ For many years, those who worried about climate change and those who worried about energy security were on opposite ends of the debate,’’ Bush said. ‘‘ Today we know better. These challenges share a common solution: technology.’’
He touted the use of clean-coal technology, wind and solar power and greater use of nuclear power plants, cellulosic ethanol, plugin hybrid and hydrogen-powered automobiles.
Each nation ‘‘ must decide for itself the right mix of tools and technologies’’ to combat global warming, he said.
While Bush pushed countries and the private sector to find market-based solutions to climate change, Democrats this week renewed criticism of his opposition to a global carbon emissions trading system.
‘‘ The only environmental ideal the president seems committed to is recycling rhetoric,’’ said Representative Ed Markey of Massachusetts, chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, who attended Bush’s speech. ‘‘ After a week of attention to the issue of global warming, the president is no closer to supporting mandatory targets for reducing heat-trapping pollution.’’
Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California said, ‘‘ The rest of the world is just stunned at the lack of support from this administration for a cap-and-trade system, which is, as you know, a free-market system.’’
Such a system, which helped curb acid rain in the US, is ‘‘ a way to put a price on carbon that really works’’, Boxer, the head of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said in an interview in Washington.
Citigroup and Lehman Brothers Holdings are among investment banks in Washington this week to promote emissions trading as an alternative to carbon dioxide taxes. At least five proposals to cut greenhouse gases blamed for climate change are in Congress.
Global emissions trading could reach about $US100 billion ($A89 billion) by 2020, New York-based Lehman said in a report late last month. That assumes the US, China and Japan adopt trading plans that cover 50 per cent of their total emissions. The market was worth $30 billion last year, World Bank figures show.
Bush called for the meeting earlier this year while under pressure from other countries, businesses and even fellow Republicans to support a required cap on global warming pollution and take a more active role in coming negotiations to craft a new worldwide climate treaty.
The US is considered key to the process because it’s the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases. The current Kyoto accord, which requires developed countries to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions, expires in 2012. The US and Australia are the only industrialised countries that haven’t signed onto the accord. Developing countries such as China are exempt from the carbon cuts required under Kyoto.
Talks to replace Kyoto will be overseen by the UN and begin in December in Bali, Indonesia. Bush has proposed a series of meetings with the world’s major emitters to coincide with those negotiations.
Bush says the countries, which collectively account for more than 80 per cent of the world’s global warming pollution, need to set a long-term goal to curb emissions and that he will call a meeting of heads of state within a year to ‘‘ finalise the goal.’’
‘‘ By setting this goal we acknowledge there is a problem, and by setting this goal we commit ourselves to doing something about it,’’ Bush said. ‘‘ We must lead the world to produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions’’ in a way that doesn’t harm economic expansion.
Critics of Bush’s climate policies say the administration is trying to delay taking action until he leaves office in January 2009. ‘‘ Deny, delay, dissemble, that’s the evolution of the Bush climate policy,’’ said Philip Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust, a Washington-based nonprofit group. Bloomberg
Climate change policy: Each country must work out the best solution for itself, President George W. Bush says