Bush's much-maligned climate talks could yet help global-warming treaty
At the meeting of the world's biggest polluters in Hawaii this week, host US has a chance to show it is serious about action on climate change.
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Bush's efforts has met with some skepticism, especially after the first meeting last September which one senior environmental hand described as "Climate 101 when the rest of the world was in graduate school." One test of how serious the White House is about the process will come in discussions of future actions, some analysts say. Until now, the administration has emphasized actions it has already taken – setting an interim greenhouse gas "intensity" target for the US economy, or the amount of emissions permitted per unit of GDP, pumping money into climate change research, and the recent adoption of mandatory fuel economy standards.Skip to next paragraph
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The key question, however, is: What's next? "I would find the effort much more serious when the US government decides to put on the table what it thinks an appropriate near-term response and policy effort would be," says Joseph Aldy, co-director of Harvard University's Project on International Climate Agreements. "At some point, we need to see the ideas the Bush administration has on both of these fronts," and in a quantifiable way, he adds.
The process is slated to end this summer in a summit, perhaps tied to the G-8 meeting in Hokkiado, Japan. Ideally, the Bush effort would lead to a consensus on all the essential elements of a post-2012 agreement, says Elliot Diringer, director of international strategies at the Pew Center for Global Climate Change in Arlington, Va. The group is more likely to move on the few issues easiest to handle in the short time available, including aid to developing countries.
Overall, says Mr. Diringer, the broad concept of pulling major emitters together outside the UN process to better inform it is a useful one with a fair amount of support. It appears, for instance, in Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton's energy and climate policy statement as the "E-8." And the Bush effort may yet produce results. "The president wants a world leaders' summit at the end, and he needs some kind of deliverable," he says.
Still, expectations "are not high," he continues. "As other government see it, this is not the means for cutting a final deal" on climate "nor is this the administration to cut it with."