Bush’s Global Warming Plan Isn’t Good Enough

by Jessica Miller

June 5, 2007

After hearing the news from the White House that President Bush was set to unveil his new strategy for combating global warming, I wondered if he had finally returned to where he began? Was he finally going to make good on his broken promise from the 2000 campaign to support the Kyoto Protocol, and lead the international effort to solve global warming? Well, it’s now clear the answer is no. Not only is the President’s “plan” no more than “too little, too late”, but it is in fact, a dangerous distraction that puts at risk the serious attempt to agree upon timelines and targets for reducing global warming pollution that is on the table for the G8 meeting this week.

In unveiling his new plan, the President talked about the need to create a new process that will continue once the Kyoto Protocol “expires” in 2012. But the President knows that the Kyoto Protocol does not expire in 2012. What happens in 2012 is not the expiration of the Protocol, but the beginning of a second, even stronger commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. The Presidents “plan” is a clear attempt to derail this second set of commitments. If the President wants to act on climate change, the first thing he should do is to setting a cap on global warming pollution and supporting a national renewable energy standard. The President doesn’t have to start a new process to agree to targets with major emitters, he could simply agree to the targets proposed for the G8 meeting next week. If he does not do that, the other seven G8 members need to move forward without President Bush. The President talked about the need to engage the rapidly developing countries of China and India. However, the President forgot to mention the fact that both China and India have already ratified the Kyoto Protocol. The U.S. has not. We are the single largest emitter of global warming pollution on the planet. The average citizen of the U.S. uses more than 6 times the amount of energy as the average Chinese citizen. If the President were serious about battling global warming he would have set a goal. The Europeans have set a goal based in solid science, keeping average global temperature change under 3.7 F degrees.

Scientists tell us that our planet will likely face profound changes with a temperature change of more than 3.7 degrees. A 50% cut in global emissions by 2050 compared to 1990 levels is what science demands and will require industrialized countries to cut their emissions by 30 percent by 2020 and 80-90 percent by 2050. The President, on the other hand, offered no targets or timelines. He proposed a meeting that would attempt to set “aspirational goals” by the end of 2008. This might have been appropriate 10 years ago, but it is wholly inadequate given all we have learned about the science of global warming over the last decade. The newly elected German government of Chancellor Merkel has proposed strong language on global warming for this week’s G8 meeting. To keep the United States from derailing progress at the international level, Ms. Merkel should lead the rest of the G8, and leave the United States behind. Allowing the U.S. to water down the G8 language by removing any meaningful target, timeline, or goal would be a slap in the face to many of the U.S.’s most important allies. Instead, the seven Kyoto Protocol members of the G8 should ignore the President’s “new plan”, and instead, commit next week to radical emission cuts and to concluding plans for the second binding commitment under the Kyoto Protocol by 2009 at the latest.

– Chris 

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