Friday, June 01, 2007

White House Policy Change On Climate Change?

May 31: As part of a broader agenda of items leading up to the G-8 meeting on June 6-8, in Heiligendamm, Germany, [See WIMS 5/18/07], President Bush described his ideas that will be presented to the G8 ministers about the environment. While there are many critics and accusations of posturing in advance of the international meeting, other observers are calling the announcement a major turning point in the Administration's policy on global warming and climate change. The G8+5 includes: Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, the United States, Canada and Japan; the plus 5 countries are China, India, Mexico, Brazil and South Africa. The European Commission is also represented at all the meetings.

In his overall remarks President Bush said, "In recent years, science has deepened our understanding of climate change and opened new possibilities for confronting it. The United States takes this issue seriously. The new initiative I am outlining today will contribute to the important dialogue that will take place in Germany next week. The United States will work with other nations to establish a new framework on greenhouse gas emissions for when the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012... It's important to ensure that we get results, and so we will create a strong and transparent system for measuring each country's performance. This new framework would help our nations fulfill our responsibilities under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. The United States will work with all nations that are part of this convention to adapt to the impacts of climate change, gain access to clean and more energy-efficient technologies, and promote sustainable forestry and agriculture."

According to a White House fact sheet summarizing the President's proposals the U.S. announces its support for "an effort to develop a new post-2012 framework on climate change by the end of 2008. The plan recognizes that it is essential that a new framework include both major developed and developing economies that generate the majority of greenhouse gas emissions and consume the most energy, and that climate change must be addressed in a way that enhances energy security and promotes economic growth.

The President said the U.S. will convene the major emitters and energy consumers to advance and complete the new framework by the end of 2008. The fact sheet indicates that: (1) The U.S. remains committed to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and we expect the new framework to complement ongoing UN activity; (2) The President’s proposal breaks new ground in advancing areas of common interest between developed countries and the major emerging economies. (3) The effort will build on and advance U.S. relations with the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate and other technology and bilateral partnerships.

Further, the President's proposal is based on the principle that climate change must be addressed by fostering both energy security and economic security, by accelerating the development and deployment of "transformational clean energy technologies."
In developing the new framework, the White House is calling on the major emitters to work together to develop a long-term global goal to reduce greenhouse gasses. Importantly, the proposal says that, "Each country will work to achieve this emissions goal by establishing its own ambitious mid-term national targets and programs, based on national circumstances. They will ensure advancement towards the global goal with a review process that assesses each country’s performances."

White House press secretary Tony Snow and Jim Connaughton, Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality held a press briefing to explain the new Administration initiative which Connaughton said was the "going forward strategy on the issue of energy security and climate change." Connaughton described a somewhat confusing, multi-part agenda that included the United States committing to "help lead the way on the development of a new framework on climate change" for the time after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. He said, "We are going to bring to the United States the countries that represent the largest energy use and the largest emissions of greenhouse gases" [i.e. about 10 to 15 countries]. We hope to find consensus on the statement of the statement of a long-term goal for reducing greenhouse gases."

Additionally the U.S. will facilitate industry sectors (e.g. power generation, fuels, buildings) representatives in each country to "see if they can come up with a common work program to share best practices, but also, we would anticipate they would set targets, too... The final element of part one is that we will have a stronger program of measuring performance and making that very transparent so we can compare apples to apples on how we're doing."

Also, the U.S. will work through the U.N. Framework on Climate Change to develop a common agenda around four: sustainable land use; better forestry practices; better agricultural practices; better thinking through our cities; halting illegal logging and deforestation.

There was considerable discussion about whether the U.S. is advocating voluntary or mandatory agreements. The answers from Connaughton reflected a great deal of flexibility, i.e. "The commitment at the international level will be to a long-term aspirational goal... There's a lot of misconception about what's binding and what's not binding. The issue is you agree on goals in the international process; you implement them through national strategies that include binding measures... it's just challenging because you're trying to deal with big economic issues."

[Note: We have included extensive links to various individual and organization reactions to the President's plan below]

Access the White House fact sheet on its climate change proposal (
click here). Access the complete transcript of the White House press briefing on the proposal (click here). Access the President's overall international development remarks (click here). Access a release from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (click here). Access a release from Speaker Nancy Pelosi (click here). Access a release from Representative Ed Markey (click here). Access a release from U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (click here). Access a release from Senator Pete Domenici (click here). Access a release from the National Environmental Trust (click here). Access a release from Natural Resources Defense Council (click here). Access a release from National Wildlife Federation (click here). Access a release from Environmental Defense (click here). [*Climate, *Energy]