Positive Environment News

Global Warming Meetings Put Focus on US Role

Date: 24-Sep-07
Country: US
Author: Deborah Zabarenko, Environment Correspondent

The central issue is how to curb the emission of
climate-warming greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide
from coal-fired power plants and petroleum-fueled vehicles, and
whether to make the goals mandatory or "aspirational" as the
White House has proposed.

As the world's leading emitter of greenhouse gases -- with
China close behind and gaining fast -- the United States has
said it wants to lead, but critics from the US environmental
movement and elsewhere question whether its voluntary approach
will work.

A "high-level" UN meeting in New York on Monday is meant
to send a "strong political message" from world leaders,
according to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, although it is
not a negotiation on climate change.

Harlan Watson, the chief US climate negotiator, said it
was time to move beyond talk and try to develop a way forward.

"We're getting beyond the conceptual ... level and want to
get down to the kind of roll-up-your-sleeves stage," Watson
said on Friday at a briefing. "We really want to get away from
the dialogue ... and see how we can really construct an
architecture for what happens after the first commitment period
of Kyoto ends in 2012."

The United States is at odds with the Kyoto Protocol, an
international agreement that requires 36 industrial nations to
cut greenhouse emissions by at least 5 percent from 1990 levels
by 2012, when the protocol expires.

President George W. Bush rejected the Kyoto plan, saying it
unfairly burdens rich countries while exempting developing
countries like China and India, and that it will cost US


Climate change negotiations will take place in December in
Bali, when representatives will consider a way to cut emissions
after the Kyoto pact expires. The deadline for figuring this
out is 2009, so countries have enough time to ratify the

Eighty-one heads of state or government will attend
Monday's event, along with two vice presidents, five deputy
prime ministers, 33 foreign ministers and 12 environment
ministers, in addition to 18 other representatives, according
to the United Nations. Former US Vice President Al Gore and
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger are scheduled to attend.

Bush will not attend but is scheduled to dine with Ban
afterward, in advance of his address on Tuesday to the UN
General Assembly.

Bush will speak at a two-day Washington meeting at the
State Department on Thursday and Friday, a gathering of "major
economies" -- which are also the world's biggest global warming
contributors -- on energy security and climate change.

"Unless the United States decides it wants to be a major
and committed leadership player in this and make very specific
leadership commitments, much of the rest of the world is going
to effectively hide behind the skirts of the United States and
not do anything," said Tim Wirth, head of the nonprofit UN

"So what the United States does and how the United States
decides to enter this negotiation is going to be a very, very
telling commentary on the future of the climate negotiations
and I believe on the fate of the Earth."

Only the United States and the chief UN climate change
representative, Yvo de Boer, are scheduled to make public
comments at the Washington meeting.

The White House would not release the names of
participants, so it was unclear whether top government
officials would attend. At least one country, Brazil, did not
plan to send its president or even its environment minister.

In between the UN and Washington meetings, the
nongovernmental Clinton Global Initiative will convene in New
York from Wednesday through Friday. A nonpartisan project of
former US President Bill Clinton's foundation, it will
discuss climate change with participants from business,
academia, entertainment and nongovern

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