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Last Updated: Friday, 1 February 2008, 18:33 GMT
Bush's climate talks 'engaging'
By Roger Harrabin
Environment Analyst, BBC News

US President George W Bush at the Washington climate forum (AFP)
The latest talks were said to be an improvement on the first
The latest US-led climate talks in Honolulu, Hawaii, have been described by delegates as the most frank and engaging climate negotiations so far.

It was the second in a series of Major Economies Meetings called by US President George W Bush.

He called the first in Washington last year after expressing a desire to find a solution to the climate issue.

That first meeting was described by angry EU delegates as a waste of time, a PR stunt for the American elections.

But this time the tone was very different.

One EU delegate said: "I came expecting nothing and was very pleasantly surprised. Normally, we get sterile pre-prepared statements of policy, but this time there was a very frank discussion exploring the very difficult and different conditions facing each of the countries. It was very constructive."

Brice Lalonde, the French climate ambassador, added: "It was very low-key but people just got on with it. The talks were very positive… until the final statement was discussed."

At that point, he said, Russia and India refused to include a statement that they had been discussing mandatory, internationally binding commitments, even though that is exactly what had been discussed.

A number of delegates offered a degree of optimism that the big economies might this year agree a global target for cutting emissions by 2050.

Issues aired

The US is said to be moving slowly towards a figure, but India is holding out because a long-term global target implies emissions cuts for them. They feel that with per capita emissions a twentieth of the Americans, it is unfair to expect them to reduce emissions overall.

Part of the idea of the meetings is to air issues like this.

EU delegates said that for the world to achieve any serious long-term target on CO2, new technologies would be needed that would benefit India as much as America.

The US offered at the talks to commit its national energy policies to a UN-shared agreement if all major economies agreed to do the same.

The Europeans said any American commitment that did not include a firm pledge to actually cut greenhouse gases (rather than increase energy efficiency) was inadequate.

Boyden Gray, the US envoy to the EU who was present in Honolulu, said he believed that the progress made in the recent UN climate talks in Bali and now in Honolulu, meant the world looked to be on track for a comprehensive global agreement on climate by the end of 2009.

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