Friday, June 01, 2007

What Bush's "new framework on greenhouse gas emissions" is really all about

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It is being reported -- by the BBC, for example -- that President Bush, in advance of next week's G8 summit in Germany, has "urged countries to agree on long-term goals for greenhouse gas emissions". Given his, and his administration's, appalling record on the climate crisis -- I recently called him "an enabler of future genocide" and his inaction and opposition to action "the height of stupidity and irresponsibility" -- this would seem to be an encouraging sign of progress. Indeed, in a speech delivered in Washington yesterday, Bush even admitted that "global climate change" is a reality. He has admitted it before, but, again, given his appalling record, not to mention the even worse record of many Republicans and conservatives, even the repetition of this admission may be taken as a positive development. And his proposal was met with approval from at least two key European leaders. Tony Blair called it "a big step forward," while Angela Merkel found "common ground".

But what to make of the proposal? Is there reason to be optimistic? In a word, no:

BBC environment analyst Roger Harrabin says Mr Bush's speech was short on details, and White House aides have made clear Mr Bush will oppose demands for the US to cut emissions and join a global carbon trading system.

The US seems to be trying to set up a separate framework on climate change talks outside the G8, our correspondent says.

And that's just the start of it. For an excellent assessment of Bush's alternative "framework," see Gristmill, where David Roberts picks apart the framework and finds it not just hollow but counter-productive:

To give credit where it's due, there is considerable symbolic significance to the news that the U.S. is shifting from a stance of truculent foot-dragging to active engagement. Perhaps he's desperate for a PR boost, or perhaps he's just realized the pressure is too great to keep fighting directly, but for whatever reason, Bush's rhetorical shift sends a welcome if long overdue signal. Unfortunately, the shift is only rhetorical.

*****

[T]his announcement from Bush is not a genuine change of heart on climate change. The U.S. still will not agree to any emission reduction targets. It will not agree that the developed countries bear primary responsibility for climate change. It will not sign on to the growing consensus among developed nations about how to tackle the problem.

This announcement is an attempt to run out the clock on the Bush administration without committing to anything but sweetheart deals for corporate backers.

Same as it ever was.

Make sure to read the entire post. Under Bush's proposal, "[t]he meetings will be convened by the U.S. and held on U.S. territory; the U.S. will control the agenda." And, again, these would just be "talks," not "immediate action," which is what Blair, Merkel, and the others really want. As well, it may be worthwhile to include countries like China and India in developing a long-term strategy to deal with the climate crisis, but they, like the U.S., will likely oppose "any binding targets". In other words, the U.S. would include them in order to advance its own interests (and to thwart real progress).

The more the climate changes, the more Bush stays the same.

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