Bush's lame duck climate 'plan'

Feature story - 17 April, 2008
President Bush has tried again to make the world believe that he will rectify his shameful record of ignoring, denying and fuelling climate change. He's announced that by 2025, the US will stop increasing its emissions. Yes, for another 15 years the country that has spewed more emissions into the atmosphere than any other country on Earth will continue to emit more and more.

A clear message to US President George Bush projected on the Washington Monument.

Bush must have missed the reports by the Noble Prize winning IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). The IPCC unequivocally says that global emissions need to peak within the next 10 years at the latest. Ten years, not 17!

Bush's plan for after 2025 is also lamentable. Bush says, the US may cut emissions, if coal can be made clean, nuclear power is safe - and pigs can be genetically engineered to fly. This is a woefully inadequate response by an administration that has obstructed global efforts to tackle climate change at every opportunity.

Bush arrived as an oil man from Texas at the White House in 2001. He leaves as an oil man from Texas in 2009.

Bush made his speech on the occasion of the Major Emitters Meeting (MEM)  currently underway in Paris. This US-driven initiative, launched last year, brings together 16 countries that collectively emit over 80 percent of global emissions to discuss climate change. But the MEM, like Bush's speech, is nothing but an attempt by the Bush administration to deflect attention from its shameful record on tackling climate change.

Binding emission targets for industrialised countries are the basis of any meaningful global agreement to fight climate change. France said as much at the last climate summit in Bali last December. Climate talks that don't result in binding targets for industrialised countries are meaningless, France said. Which begs the question - why is French President Sarkozy hosting this useless talking shop?

McCain, Obama and Clinton all support binding emission reductions for the whole US economy. That is good news, because Bush is a 'lame duck' and will be out of office when the next global climate agreement will be made in Copenhagen in 2009.

Countries attending the MEM, must listen to Noble Peace Prize Laureate, Desmond Tutu. In a statement supporting Greenpeace's position on the MEM he reminds rich world leaders of their responsibility:

"Many rich world leaders have not, so far, responded to the climate crisis with the urgency required. Cushioned and cosseted, they have had the luxury of closing their minds to the real impact of what is happening in the fragile and precious atmosphere that surrounds the planet we live on.

"I wonder how much more anxious they might be, if they depended on the cycle of mother nature to feed their families. How much greater would their concerns be if they lived in slums and townships, in mud houses, or shelters made of plastic bags? In large parts of sub-Saharan Africa, this is a reality. The poor, the vulnerable and the hungry are exposed to the harsh edge of climate change every day of their lives. …

"At the Major Economies Meeting in Paris, developed countries must commit to immediate action against climate change. The United Nations need to deliver an action plan to save the planet at the climate change conference in 2009. There is no time to be distracted from the urgent task to deliver this global rescue plan. The world is watching, and those who are feeling the impacts of climate change today, are expecting decisive action - now."

US burden

As an attendee of the MEM, South Africa's environment minister immediately condemned Bush's speech by saying: "There is no way whatsoever that we can agree to what the US is proposing, which means that the fundamental distinction between developed and developing countries should be erased and that we should turn a blind eye to historical responsibility for the problem. In effect, the US wants developing countries that already face huge poverty and development challenges to pay for what the US and other highly industrialized countries have caused over the past 150 years. We are willing to do our fair share to address the climate challenge, but not to carry a part of the US's burden."

The countries participating in Bush's meeting are: Japan, France, Germany, Italy, the UK, China, Canada, India, Brazil, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Australia, Indonesian, and South Africa. The countries most at risk from impacts of climate change - such as small island developing states like Tuvalu - are not even invited to be at the table.

Arieta Moceica of Greenpeace Australia Pacific said from Suva, Fiji: "While small islands like my own are sinking, Bush and Sarkozy are wasting everyone's time in Paris at talks that fail to deliver the rapid emissions reductions we need. The Paris talks behind closed doors are nothing but a slap in the face of those already suffering from climate change today."


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