The Duck of Minerva

Bush: still alone on climate change

29 September 2007

Secretary of State Condi Rice and President George Bush made news this week by calling for global action to prevent global warming. However, neither one even really hinted at caps, limits, or mandatory cuts in so-called greenhouse gases.

Secretary Rice kicked off the White House’s climate summit by declaring “it is our responsibility as global leaders to forge a new international consensus on how to address climate change.” In the end, however, Rice sounded like a confirmed libertarian — or maybe an “artiste”, or gnarly surfer dude — unwilling to be bound by any rules, man:

“Every country will make its own decisions, reflecting its own needs and its own interests…all nations should tackle climate change in the ways that they deem best.”

Righteous, girl.

In his speech, Bush embraced the pollyanna principle to explain how unilateral voluntary approach would solve the problem:

We will set a long-term goal for reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. By setting this goal, we acknowledge there is a problem. And by setting this goal, we commit ourselves to doing something about it.

Something about that sounded familiar to me….hmmm.

In any event, the President has arguably advanced a long way from 2001. He’s now confident that some concerted effort can bring the world all the way up to the status quo, 1992.

The Europeans are quite openly fed up with the US on this issue. From the Washington Post September 29:

“This here was a great step for the Americans and a small step for mankind,” Germany’s environment minister, Sigmar Gabriel, said after Bush’s speech at the State Department before representatives of the nations that are the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases. “In substance, we are still far apart.”

The anonymous complaints were far more critical. This is from The Guardian from the 29th:

“It was a total charade and has been exposed as a charade,” the [senior European] diplomat said. “I have never heard a more humiliating speech by a major leader. He [Mr Bush] was trying to present himself as a leader while showing no sign of leadership. It was a total failure.”

The diplomat, as they say, was “speaking on condition of anonymity.”

Even the British, with whom the United States has a “special relationship,” are quite angry at Bush. The Post story again:

John Ashton, a special representative on climate change for the British foreign secretary, said: “One of the striking features of this meeting is how isolated this administration has become. There is absolutely no support that I can see in the international community that we can drive this effort on the basis of voluntary efforts.”

C. Boyden Gray, the U.S. ambassador to the E.U. had the audacity to say in response that “The British might be isolating themselves.”

One concrete policy measure Bush touted — though it too is a voluntary “coalition of the willing” — was the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership. The GNEP promotes nuclear energy and has been framed as an anti-proliferation measure by the administration.