The signs have been clear for the past couple of months that US president George Bush was not going to respond favorably to prodding by Tony Blair and Angela Merkel in their effort to engage the US in international talks on climate change set to begin later this year. Merkel, as host of next week’s G-8 summit and current president of the European Union, was particularly interested in seeing Europe and the US agree to a framework of capping emissions and reducing the increase in global temperatures.
In a speech stunning in its audacity, Bush not only rejected mandatory greenhouse gas emission limits, but also proposed that the US actually take charge of climate talks, ignoring the ongoing discussions under the auspices of the United Nations. Bush’s top climate advisor, James Connaughton, indicated that emissions goals will be “aspirational.”
This, of course, runs counter to the framework of Kyoto and the desire to actually strengthen mandatory emissions–rather than Bush’s inclination to do away with them.
Reaction in Europe has been muted, at best, with Merkel contending that the UN remains the best forum for continuing talks. US papers, on the other hand, have been more charitable. Opposition Democrats have ridiculed the plan. Regardless, Bush’s gambit will undoubtedly make the meetings this week in Hamburg quite tense.