Article

Bush goes Green

Either way, the politics of climate change are no longer the internal quarrels of the Western world alone. They have finally reached the global stage. Europe has now to choose between a pragmatic long-term policy that allows growing prosperity to develop and adopt cleaner industries or a continuation of short-sighted unilateralism that has failed to achieve its basic goals.

Imagine President George W. Bush announcing that he had unexpectedly agreed to withdraw all US troops from Iraq. The media, taken by surprise, ignores the bombshell. Unimaginable, you say. But a volte-face almost as dramatic has occurred in another, hot-button area of international politics - without drawing much attention.

On 26 April, one day before US President George W Bush welcomed Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Washington on his first visit since taking office, TIME Magazine asked: "Can Japan Make Bush Go Green?" TIME was probing into what Japanese media reported just before the US-Japanese summit - that Abe and Bush were poised to agree upon a strategy for a radical, new climate pact to replace the contentious Kyoto Accord after it expires at the end of 2012?

Could it really be true that the US Administration was about to commit to cutting in half greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 after years of vigorously opposing the Kyoto Protocol's binding emission targets? TIME correspondent Bryan Walsh cautioned: "Tokyo hasn't confirmed the report, but Japanese officials have made it clear that Abe intends to go green in Washington."

Two weeks after their summit, it appears that the... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Imagine President George W. Bush announcing that he had unexpectedly agreed to withdraw all US troops from Iraq. The media, taken by surprise, ignores the bombshell. Unimaginable, you say. But a volte-face almost as dramatic has occurred in another, hot-button area of international politics - without drawing much attention.

On 26 April, one day before US President George W Bush welcomed Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Washington on his first visit since taking office, TIME Magazine asked: "Can Japan Make Bush Go Green?" TIME was probing into what Japanese media reported just before the US-Japanese summit - that Abe and Bush were poised to agree upon a strategy for a radical, new climate pact to replace the contentious Kyoto Accord after it expires at the end of 2012?

Could it really be true that the US Administration was about to commit to cutting in half greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 after years of vigorously opposing the Kyoto Protocol's binding emission targets? TIME correspondent Bryan Walsh cautioned: "Tokyo hasn't confirmed the report, but Japanese officials have made it clear that Abe intends to go green in Washington."

Two weeks after their summit, it appears that the Japanese PM arguably succeeded in bringing President Bush on board such a scheme. On Monday, Abe officially announced that he had obtained the Administration's support for this new climate policy of seeking an international consensus at this year's G8 summit in Germany for an action plan proposing global steps aimed at halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 from current levels.

One catch: The two leaders also agreed that any effective international framework on climate change must include China, India and other major greenhouse gas emitters from the developing world. Like the U.S. and Australia, these countries are among 155 that reject promises of mandatory emission reductions.

In other words, Japan and the US would commit to reduce emissions in 2005 by 50 percent-from current levels-so long as all major emitters join in that target.

This shrewdly undermines the EU's climate strategy carefully prepared for this year's G8 summit in Germany. By joining forces on climate policy, Japan and the US are challenging Europe's traditional position head on. More importantly, by offering a deal to cut global CO2 emissions by half, not just those of a handful of richer nations, the Administration shifts international pressure away from itself and onto China and India.

According to the International Energy Agency, China will surpass the U.S. as the world's top emitter of greenhouse gases this year. Beijing, however, doggedly refuses any commitment to limit its CO2 emissions, inexorably negating emission reductions that might be achieved elsewhere in the world and rendering any climate treaty facially impact-free.

The EU has a significant economic interest in preserving Kyoto's 1990 baseline since that year marks the collapse of CO2 emissions in the United Kingdon and Eastern Europe (the former massively shifted from coal to gas for electricity production, the latter collapsed economically). With the pending expiration of Kyoto with no successor agreement apparently feasible under its current design, the U.S. and Japan suggest a fresh start with a new baseline - on the grounds that it is a compromise that Europe could live with.

In reality, however, Europe will find it extremely difficult to abandon the 1990 baseline year which artificially presents them as being emission-slashers. Europe, of course, may not be alone in rejecting such a pact, due to the key proviso that it be a global treaty including all major emitters of greenhouse gases.

This prompts the question, would the EU continue its unilateral insistence for a Kyoto-style treaty that excludes the developing, knowing full well that it would only perpetuate a policy that has failed to slow down, let alone reduce CO2 emissions? The key question is whether the EU will continue its traditional support for a unilateral treaty that ignores the developing world - or whether Europe is ready to join the US-Japanese partnership plan?

It is because the debate would come down to such a confrontation that EU leaders are increasingly worried they may become caught between two rival coalitions during post-Kyoto negotiations. At late-April US-EU summit in Washington German Chancellor Angela Merkel thus warned that "we don't want to isolate ourselves or shut ourselves off against the rest of the world. But we,alone, without the emerging countries, will not be able solve the problem of climate change."

Meanwhile, the Chinese government delayed indefinitely its national "action plan" on climate change intended to provide China's leaders with an official basis for negotiations of a possible post-Kyoto international accord. Given China's explosive growth, its leaders have been resisting setting mandatory targets for emissions that are unlikely to be curtailed with current technology.

Now that Bush has either gone green or become admirably clever by coming out in support of a global climate treaty that offers tangible emission cuts, the onus is on the leaders of Asia's powerhouses to respond. Should they reject Japan's new proposal, they - not the toxic Texan - will get the blame for the obstruction of progress. However, should they eventually concede to international pressure, their industries will also be subject to a cap on emissions, far off in the future, but still one that is not feasible under current or foreseeable technologies.

Either way, the politics of climate change are no longer the internal quarrels of the Western world alone. They have finally reached the global stage. Europe has now to choose between a pragmatic long-term policy that allows growing prosperity to develop and adopt cleaner industries or a continuation of short-sighted unilateralism that has failed to achieve its basic goals.

Dr. Benny Peiser is the editor of CCNet, an international science policy network.



Source: http://www.achgut.com/dadgd...

MAY 31 2007
http://www.windaction.org/posts/9188-bush-goes-green
back to top