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Critics angry at Bush climate plan

By Roger Harrabin
Environment analyst, BBC News

US President George W Bush at the Washington climate forum
Mr Bush warned world leaders of the dangers of climate change

US President George W Bush infuriated his critics by professing world leadership on climate change at his meeting of the top 16 world economies - while offering no new substantive policy and implicitly rejecting binding emissions controls.

Mr Bush, who has been sceptical of climate change, said at the forum in Washington that our understanding of the science had moved on.

He agreed that energy security and climate change were major challenges and pledged to solve both problems - but dismissed notions of despair.

The American president said clean technologies like nuclear power and clean coal would protect the economy as well as the environment.

He said the US wanted to work with the United Nations towards a long-term goal on greenhouse gases.

Delegates upset

He also proposed a new global fund from the US, Japan and Europe to channel clean technology to developing countries.

This is a total charade... It's a total humiliation
Visiting delegate

But some visiting delegates were outraged by what they said was a stream of spin running through the speech.

One (who understandably asked not to be named) said: "This is a total charade.

"The president has said he will lead on climate change but he won't agree binding emissions, while other nations will.

"He says he will lead on technology but then he asks other countries to contribute funds, without saying how much he'll contribute himself.

"It's humiliating for him - a total humiliation."

Some delegates were particularly upset by the extravagant invitation by Mr Bush for other nations to follow the US lead in cutting emissions while increasing the economy.

Emissions did indeed buck the upward trend by dropping a fraction of 1% in the US during 2006 - but even the American government admits this was due to a warm winter, cool summer and an oil price they considered far too high.

Moving on

Significantly, some of the visiting delegates indicated they were already planning for Mr Bush's departure from the White House.

The Germans said they had spent the past two days in productive meetings with US Democrats.

More diplomatically, the British said the issue of climate change stretched beyond any political cycle so it was natural to look ahead.

Certainly the Democrats are hoping to push an energy bill through the US Congress soon - maybe within the next few months.

Car exhaust fumes
Americans are more concerned about climate change than ever

Mr Bush would then be forced to veto it to prevent it passing.

And this may not prove popular as opinion polls in the US suggest the American people are more concerned about climate change than ever before.

Delegates, though, are not dismissing the Washington meeting out of hand.

They say all talks on climate change bringing together the major economic powers are useful in some way - forging personal relationships and building trust.

A number of delegates said the Chinese were becoming less defensive with every international meeting on climate - and that will be vital if China is to be helped to deal with its booming emissions.

And some said it was useful - albeit tedious - to hear American officials lecturing them with the very facts of climate change that they had been ignoring for years.

The US has offered to continue this Washington process of discussions if it is deemed helpful by the United Nations.

Mr Bush himself says he is organising a summit of world leaders next summer.

Privately, some European delegates are already saying they hope their political leaders are not invited.

video and audio news
President Bush on the US approach to climate change



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