- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 22, 2007

The White House yesterday announced the agenda for a climate change conference next week, but firmly rejected calls from European countries and some environmentalists that the United States agree to fixed emissions standards.

“It’s our philosophy that each nation has the sovereign capacity to decide for itself what its own portfolio of policies should be,” said Jim Connaughton, the presidents senior environmental adviser. “So Europe should be setting its objectives, just as the United States sets its own objective.”

The United States will host the two-day series of meetings Thursday and Friday in Washington, with representatives from 17 countries and the United Nations.

The United States is intent on bringing China and India — both developing countries that are among the lead polluters — into the process.

Most European nations have signed on to the Kyoto Protocol, which sets strict limits for carbon dioxide emissions. However, the Bush administration says setting emission limits would cripple huge sections of the economy.

The Kyoto accord expires in 2012, and the current discussions are aimed at determining the framework of a new global agreement.

Europeans reacted favorably in May to President Bushs announcement about the summit, but the mood since then has soured, said Julie Smith, a climate change specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“[Europeans] would love to have binding targets come out of this meeting, and Bush isnt intent on having that happen, at least not in these meetings,” Ms. Smith said.

Expectations for the meetings are low, both from the European side and the U.S. side, she said.

The White House yesterday repeatedly emphasized that it does not foresee any agreements coming from next weeks meetings.

“It’s not a summit. It is the first in what we hope will be a series of meetings among major economies,” said Dan Price, deputy national security adviser.

Mr. Connaughton said the United States is focused on cutting its carbon emissions by 20 percent in the next 10 years, and on creating new coal-powered technologies that do not produce carbon dioxide.

Ms. Smith said although no hard agreements are likely to be reached next week, the meetings will be constructive.

“Its important for Europeans to keep repeating what they hate to say, which is that China and India have to be folded into the process,” she said. “And the U.S. has to say what its uncomfortable in saying, which is that this is a man-made problem and it has serious consequences.”

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