Saturday, June 02, 2007

Changing Tides in Bush’s Global Warming Stance

Following last week's post on the continuing US opposition to tackling global warming, it now appears that the Bush administration has had a change of heart (not that we think our posts and opinions in the Legal Research Society have anything to do with it).

On Thursday, President Bush announced plans to lead negotiations together with the world’s leading 15 greenhouse gas emitters to discuss ‘targets’ for tackling global warming by the end of 2008. The news follows strong US opposition to plans marshaled by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, supported by the majority of the G8 countries, aimed at cutting emission of greenhouse gasses by 50 per cent by 2050. So far little information is available on what President Bush has in mind but he has emphasised that any plans will, unlike the current Kyoto Protocol, include developing countries like India and China. This is in itself a welcomed initiative and alongside the change of opinion the President’s pledge bodes well for the attempt to gather international consensus on the topic.

However, the President’s ideas have by opponents been labeled as hot air. In addition, they have been accused of undermining the current negotiations headed by Ms. Merkel as well as the ones taking place under the auspices of the UN. Nevertheless, a Presidential u-turn clearly was the first thing needed in order to get the US onboard any attempt to tackle global warming. If this u-turn at the same time allows inclusion of countries like India and China it is worth praising. All the same, given US policy on the issue has thus far been one of adapting through the development of technologies, while strongly resisting any caps on emission, it remains to be seen what the President has in mind. Unless he has a panacea hidden up his sleeve it is highly unlikely that the initiative will lead to significant cuts in emissions.

In other news on the topic, the Canadian government is being sued by Friends of the Earth and Sierra Legal for not living up to its Kyoto obligations. At the same time, the Economist newspaper is this week running a special report on the tendency for businesses to go green: The Economist itself, like President Bush, represents a change in opinion on the issue of global warming; from having been sceptic a few years ago to now accepting it is taking place.

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