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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 September 2007, 12:21 GMT 13:21 UK
Motives behind Bush's climate summit
By Roger Harrabin
Environment Analyst, BBC News, Washington

President Bush (Getty Images)
Critics say Mr Bush is trying to outmanoeuvre the UN climate talks
Delegates from the world's top 16 polluting nations are in Washington for a controversial climate change meeting, organised by President Bush.

The meeting will discuss priorities for technology and energy security, and will try to establish some ground rules for negotiating a long-term goal for cutting emissions.

The meeting has been officially welcomed by EU officials, but some privately fear that President Bush may be trying to undermine UN negotiations on the issue by striking a weak deal with the Chinese, under which both sides agree targets that are voluntary, not binding.

It is significant that for a conference addressed by the president and hosted by the secretary of state, many of the participants have sent junior ministers or just officials.

The gathering comes as pressure is building on the president. The Democrat leaders of the House of Representatives and the Senate both wrote to Mr Bush this week asking him to agree mandatory carbon dioxide (CO2) targets, and to arrange a cap-and-trade system for American industry, like the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

He first mooted this conference just before the G8 meeting in the summer when he was under intense pressure to sign up to mandatory emissions targets.

Other world leaders were open-mouthed - and some of the pressure was eased.

'PR exercise'

The question now is what the meeting will deliver.

President Bush (Getty Images)
Only a few of the summit's sessions will be open to the media
The EU delegates are not expecting any conclusive outcomes. Indeed, there is nothing on the agenda that suggest one might emerge.

Climate analyst Phil Clapp, of the National Environmental Trust, said he believed the meeting had originally been devised to get Mr Bush off the hook at the G8 summit, but had turned into a PR exercise.

There are only two sessions open to the media. The first showcases Condoleeza Rice, timed for Friday's papers.

The other promotes Mr Bush, in time for Saturday's papers. There is no session in which any visiting delegate has been put before the press corps.

Former presidential candidate John Kerry told BBC News that he hoped the meeting would be constructive, but he expected real advance on climate to come from the Congress and not from the White House.

"Voluntary hasn't worked and it won't work and we don't have time to play games anymore. There has to be a mandatory reduction requirement, we all have to be part of it and, frankly, the United States needs to lead," he said.

"We are moving in the Congress; we are putting together legislation; we've been working very hard on it these last months. We will try to adopt a mandatory standard in the Congress and we're going to try to do it before next year is out."

Saleem ul-Huq, a Bangladeshi academic from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), based in London, condemned the event.

He said that holding a meeting excluding poor countries that would be most affected by a warming world was like a slave traders' meeting called to discuss the abolition of slavery.


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