- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 28, 2007

DAVOS, Switzerland — The world’s political and business elite packed up yesterday and headed home from their five-day annual session in Davos, united in the belief that climate change poses the most serious threat to the planet.

Security concerns in Iraq and Iran, the rising power of China and India, and efforts to revive the Doha round of global trade talks all were held second to climate fears during talks attended by dozens of heads of state or government and top executives from a thousand of the world’s largest corporations.

Much of the attention focused on President Bush’s initiative, announced in his State of the Union address, to slash gasoline consumption by 20 percent — something British Prime Minister Tony Blair saw as evidence that the U.S. mood on climate change “is in the process of a quantum shift.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel lauded the announcement as “encouraging … and an ambitious target” that is absolutely necessary.

Mrs. Merkel, a former minister for the environment, went further than Mr. Bush, strongly endorsing a proposal by the European Commission — the executive arm of the 27-nation European Union — to aim for a 30 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2020.

“We also expect other major emittants to make a similar contribution,” Mrs. Merkel told participants in a reference to major carbon dioxide-emitting nations such as the United States, India and China.

Mr. Blair said in his keynote speech that Germany’s presidency of the Group of Eight industrial nations this year provides an opportunity to agree on the principles of a new binding international agreement that would come into effect after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

Such an agreement should be more comprehensive than Kyoto and include all the major countries, he said. “It is a prize of tantalizing significance, and I think it is possible.”

But any new accord “that does not have binding commitments from America, China and India is not one that can deliver. … Without the biggest economies being part of the framework to reduce carbon dependence, we have no earthly hope of success.”

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a leading Republican presidential candidate, signaled a change in U.S. attitudes, predicting that Congress would act very soon on climate change and that the Bush administration would follow suit.

“I admit that it is very late, and it may not be enough … but I think that for the first time, you are going to see some action on this compelling issue,” he said. The U.S. Senate adopted by a vote of 95 to 0 in 1997 a resolution that the United States should not endorse the Kyoto Protocol as written.

Achim Steiner, head of the U.N. Environment Program, said that climate change will affect hundreds of millions of people in developing countries with the spread of disease and floods.

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