Transatlantic "Climate War" Threatens G8 Summit
10:28 AM, Jun 1, 2007 • By ULF GARTZKE
With the G8 Summit in Germany just days away, the world's eight leading industrialized countries have so far failed to come to an agreement on what was supposed to be Chancellor Merkel's historic breakthrough on the international stage: forging, for the first time, a consensus that climate change is a real problem that requires concrete, binding, and long-term CO2-emission reduction targets.
Merkel and Pelosi address journalists at the â€˜Skylobby' of
But Merkel's push to make the G8 nations limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) this century, to cut global greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, and to support a global emissions trading regime has run into firm opposition from the Bush administration, which favors non-binding arrangements that put a premium on innovative technologies and nuclear power. The latter is strongly opposed by Merkel's left-wing SPD coalition partner, which wants to phase out all remaining German nuclear power plants by 2021. According to German newspaper reports, Washington sent a note to Berlin last week accusing the Merkel government of ignoring "serious, fundamental concerns" here in the United States about the draft G8 climate change communiquÃ©. A commentator for Germany's centrist weekly Die Zeit already warned of the potential for a "climate war" among the G8 nations, which could lead to the first major clash in the Summit's 30-year history.
On Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with Chancellor Merkel in Berlin "to personally congratulate her, and thank her, for her leadership" on the issue of addressing international climate change. Speaking at the first stop of her week-long trip to Europe, Pelosi strongly urged Bush to help reach a climate change compromise. "This trip for us began in Greenland, where we saw first-hand evidence that climate change is a reality. There is just no denying it."
Yesterday, President Bush made a surprise move and unveiled his own proposal for a "A New International Climate Change Framework", urging 15 of the world's major CO2 emitters (the G8 plus key emerging market players such as China and India that are exempt from the current Kyoto Protocol and which is set to expire in 2012) to meet this fall "to develop a long-term global goal to reduce greenhouse gasses" in an effort to address climate change "in a way that enhances energy security and promotes economic growth." According to the Bush plan, each country would be able to decide on its own how to meet the emissions goal.
Merkel cautiously welcomed Bush's new initiative, noting that she saw "movement on the issue" and that Bush had recognized that "climate change is man-made and cannot be ignored." German media, however, reacted with some skepticism. Munich's left-of-center daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung, for instance, views Bush's "vicious proposal" as a "poison pill" designed to kill both the G8 Summit and the UN Climate Change Conference in Indonesia later this year. After all, in proposing his own alternative, post-Kyoto framework involving only the world's 15 major CO2 emitters, President Bush clearly wants to deal with climate change outside of the often unwieldy 192-nation UN framework. However, Dr. Bernd Pfaffenbach, http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,2144,2542798,00.html target=_blank>Germany's G8 sherpa, already made it clear that UN-involvement in any post-Kyoto climate change regime was "non-negotiable." Without mentioning Bush's latest proposal, he explained that "This is a red line that the Chancellor would never cross."
It remains to be seen what the G8 Summit endgame will look like. In Germany, as in the rest of Europe, there are high hopes that the Summit will mark a historic breakthrough in the fight against climate change. But these hyped expectations may turn out to be completely unfounded. Conservative analysts such as Torsten Krauel, the Washington correspondent for Die Welt, are already beginning to criticize Merkel for her handling of the G8 Summit preparations. According to Krauel, Merkel has overplayed her hand vis-Ã -vis President Bush, who--while trying to convince his conservative Republican base to accept a controversial immigration deal--has little political capital left to make significant concessions on climate change. The Kyoto protocol, after all, is still seen by many Americans as an "unfair treaty" which gives economic competitors such as China and India a free ride. As Krauel put it, "For the first time, Merkel has lost the feeling for the right measure in foreign policy."