- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 29, 2007

President Bush yesterday told leaders from the 17 most polluting countries that the U.S. approach to global warming is the way forward for the world, ignoring calls from Democrats and Europeans for mandatory emissions caps.

“Our guiding principle is clear,” Mr. Bush said. “We must lead the world to produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions, and we must do it in a way that does not undermine economic growth or prevent nations from delivering greater prosperity for their people.”

The president, speaking at the State Department on the second day of a conference organized by his administration, laid out a vision for an “age of clean energy” rather than limits on energy use.

White House officials said earlier this week that disagreement between the U.S. and European countries is minimal.

But the United Nations’ top global warming negotiator, Yvo de Boer, said that is only partially true.

“Yes, there’s disagreement on a small number of issues, but those issues are very fundamental,” Mr. de Boer said.

Europe and the U.S. are at odds over mandatory caps, trading of emission credits and how much action should be required from such developing countries as Brazil, China and India, he said.

The Bush administration has viewed global warming with more skepticism than many in the European community, and even now that Mr. Bush has put the issue front and center, his emphasis on a long-term approach indicates he is still unsure whether any real threat is imminent.

However, Mr. de Boer said he thinks U.S. pessimism about global warming, and about the U.N.’s ability to solve the problem, is softening.

Democratic leaders immediately panned the president’s speech, calling it “recycled rhetoric.”

“The president is no closer to supporting mandatory targets for reducing heat-trapping pollution, and he is no closer to admitting that carbon dioxide is a pollutant that threatens our planet,” said Rep. Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts Democrat.

Mr. Markey, who attended the speech, is chairman of the House select committee on energy independence and global warming, which was set up this year by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, said that “an effective initiative must be based on mandatory standards to protect our planet, not the voluntary goals and incremental approach supported by the administration.”

The White House organized the conference to influence the negotiating process on global warming already occurring at the United Nations, which has been driven by those who consider global warming a dire threat that needs immediate and drastic action.

Some critics said the conference was a distraction from the U.N. process, which is aimed at reaching a global agreement by 2009 for after Kyoto expires in 2012.

And although Mr. de Boer said he commended the U.S. for organizing the conference, there is little change in Europe’s opinion that mandatory caps are necessary.

The Kyoto Protocol, originally ratified in 1998, has since been ratified by 175 governments, with each agreeing to mandatory emission caps. Developing countries such as Brazil, China and India were exempted from the caps.

The U.S., which has not ratified the protocol, has protested this exemption, saying it would allow the economies of such burgeoning countries as China and India to outpace the U.S. economy. Also, some European countries are failing to meet their emissions targets.

“The old way didn’t work,” White House press secretary Dana Perino said.

Mr. Bush has sought instead to work with the major developing countries on a process that emphasizes the development of new technologies that continue to produce energy, but in a more environmentally friendly way.

“For many years … it was said that we faced a choice between protecting the environment and producing enough energy,” he said. “Today we know better. These challenges share a common solution: technology.”

The Bush administration thinks carbon emissions can be cut through new clean-coal technologies, more nuclear power plants, wind and solar power and an increase in the use of such renewable fuels as ethanol.

To that end, Mr. Bush proposed “a new international clean technology fund” to support such technologies in developing countries.

And the president was insistent that “each nation must decide for itself the right mix of tools and technologies to achieve results.”

Mr. de Boer said the Bush administration’s push for new technologies has convinced Europeans that “the carbon market alone cannot solve this problem.”

But, he said, he is still frustrated by a lack of clarity on what kind of targets for emission reduction the U.S. is willing to embrace, and whether any of them might be binding.

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