Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke passionately yesterday about addressing global warming, but talk of action at a two-day conference organized by the Bush administration could not conceal continued differences between the White House and the United Nations on which are the best solutions.
“The United States takes climate change very seriously,” Miss Rice said. “We are both a major economy and a major emitter. Climate change is a global problem and we are contributing to it, therefore, we are prepared to expand our leadership to address the challenge.”
Miss Rice spoke in the morning to a large audience that included representatives from the 17 “major emitters” — the countries around the world who have the largest amount of carbon dioxide emissions.
While about 100 protesters chanted outside the State Department for the U.S. to agree to strict carbon emission caps, Miss Rice continued to point instead to a mix of new technologies and voluntary emission limits that vary from country to country.
“Though united by common goals and collective responsibilities, all nations should tackle climate change in the ways that they deem best,” Miss Rice said.
But Miss Rice used strong language in describing the need for agreement on a global approach to curb emissions after the Kyoto protocol expires in 2012.
Her statements were at the same time an indictment of the European approach of strict emission limits at any cost to the economy, and a call for global warming skeptics to throw off inaction and engage on the issue.
“If we stay on our present path, we face an unacceptable choice: Either we sacrifice global economic growth to secure the health of our planet or we sacrifice the health of our planet to continue with fossil-fueled growth. This is a choice that we must refuse to make,” Miss Rice said.
But the U.N.’s top global warming negotiator, Yvo de Boer, struck a different tone from Miss Rice.
“We need to go well beyond the commitments as we’ve seen them at the moment,” said Mr. de Boer, who spoke just after Miss Rice.
Mr. de Boer implicitly rejected Miss Rice’s call for each country to decide for themselves how to fight global warming, and continued to talk of a need for mandatory emissions caps.
“The necessary level of ambition can be achieved by linking the highest number of countries through comparable commitments,” Mr. de Boer said. “The alignment of national initiatives may be helpful in this regard, and that’s one of the points that this meeting is focusing on.”
President Bush organized the conference, which he’ll address today, to shape the debate over how to address global warming. The Bush administration wants to push the global community toward a broad spectrum of solutions that are business-friendly and, they say, more effective than a simple carbon emissions cap.