Bush unveils new climate change plan

WASHINGTON - US President George W. Bush said Thursday he would urge major industrialized nations at a summit next week to join a new global framework for fighting climate change after the Kyoto Protocol lapses.

"The United States will work with other nations to establish a new framework on greenhouse gas emissions for when the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012," he said in a speech laying out his agenda for the June 6-8 G8 summit in Germany.

"My proposal is this: By the end of next year, America and other nations will set a long-term global goal for reducing greenhouse gases" in consultation with major greenhouse gas-producing nations, including fast-growing India and China, and industry leaders, over the next 18 months, Bush said.

Countries would also set "mid-term national targets and programs" depending on "their own mix of energy sources and future energy needs," he said, adding that there would be a "strong and transparent" method to assess progress.

"It's important to assure that we get results," said Bush, who made the initiative a key goal of his talks next week with leaders from Europe, where critics have accused Washington of dragging its feet on climate change.

The US president said he would push G8 leaders to boost investment in research and development of environment-friendly technologies and help poor countries acquire such cutting-edge science.

"We're also going to work to conclude talks with other nations on eliminating tariffs and other barriers to clean energy technologies and services by the end of this year," he said.

"If you're truly committed to helping the environment, nations need to get rid of their tariffs, need to get rid of those barriers that prevent new technologies from coming into their countries," he said.

"We'll help the world's poorest nations reduce emissions by giving them government-developed technologies at low cost or in some case no cost at all," said Bush.

The US proposal risks worsening a row with Germany, the current G8 president, which is seeking a strong resolution on fighting climate change at the summit and wants to bring as many nations as possible to the table.

Greenpeace spokesman Joerg Feddern criticized recent media reports on the US proposal as an attempt to undermine the United Nations' Kyoto process with its mandatory restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions.

"This is fatal for climate protection," Feddern told AFP.

Under the Kyoto Procotol, 35 industrialized nations that have signed and ratified the pact are required to make targeted cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide (CO2).

The United States, the world's number one emitter of greenhouse gases, has refused to ratify the protocol and abide by the Kyoto process.

China and India's status as developing nations exempts them from mandatory targets on greenhouse gas output, though they are fast becoming big emitters of greenhouse gases as they burn oil, gas and coal to power their economies.

The US administration has cited this as a reason for not submitting the protocol for ratification by the Senate.

This week China and India both signalled that they were not ready to accept binding targets on cutting emissions in the post-Kyoto era either.

UN negotiations on a new protocol on climate change will begin in earnest at a conference in Bali in December.

Washington strongly objects to a draft declaration on climate change that Chancellor Angela Merkel wants world leaders to adopt at the Group of Eight summit in Heiligendamm in northern Germany.

The text calls for a commitment to cutting global greenhouse gas emissions to 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 and limiting the worldwide temperature rise this century to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

05/31/2007 15:47 GMT

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