U.S. Rejects G-8 Climate Proposal

By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 26, 2007

U.S. officials have raised a second round of unusually bluntly worded objections to a proposed global-warming declaration that Germany prepared for next month's Group of Eight summit, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.

Representatives from the world's leading industrial nations met the past two days in Heiligendamm, Germany, to negotiate over German Chancellor Angela Merkel's proposed statement, which calls for limiting the worldwide temperature rise this century to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit and cutting global greenhouse gas emissions to 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

Bush administration officials, who raised similar objections in April, rejected the idea of setting mandatory emissions targets as well as language calling for G-8 nations to raise overall energy efficiencies by 20 percent by 2020. With less than two weeks remaining, said sources familiar with the talks, the climate document is the only unresolved issue in the statements the world leaders are expected to sign at the June 6-8 summit.

"The U.S. still has serious, fundamental concerns about this draft statement," a paper dated May 14 states. "The treatment of climate change runs counter to our overall position and crosses multiple 'red lines' in terms of what we simply cannot agree to. . . . We have tried to 'tread lightly' but there is only so far we can go given our fundamental opposition to the German position."

The most recent draft, dated May 24, shows that the two sides remain at loggerheads. While Germany has offered to alter language identifying a rise in global temperature of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit as a dangerous tipping point and instead to accept a Russian proposal that targets a range from 2.7 to 4.5 degrees, the United States has yet to accept the modified language.

The United States also remains opposed to a statement that reads, "We acknowledge that the U.N. climate process is an appropriate forum for negotiating future global action on climate change."

At the United Nations, which has been the central forum for climate talks for more than a decade, Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has not responded directly to U.S. pressure for a change. He will be attending the G-8 summit, however, and on May 18 he sent a letter to G-8 leaders calling climate change "one of the most profound global challenges of our time" and saying, "I hope that the world leaders that gather together at Heiligendamm will be ready to discuss this subject in its critical dimensions."

Negotiators are also debating language that calls for improving energy efficiency in the transportation sector over the next 13 years by at least 20 percent, using 2005 as a benchmark.

Kristen Hellmer, spokeswoman for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said yesterday that "the discussions are ongoing, and what's important is what is in the final document."

President Bush has consistently called for the development of advanced technology to help meet the country's energy needs and cut global-warming pollution without imposing a mandatory cap on emissions.

"We all agree that development and deployment of clean technology is critical to any approach," Hellmer said.

But John Coequyt, energy policy specialist for the advocacy group Greenpeace, said the administration is undermining progress on climate change by opposing Germany's proposed declaration.

"The Bush administration is clearly ignoring the global scientific consensus as well the groundswell of concern about climate change in the United States," Coequyt said. "The administration's attempts to hold up any meaningful agreement at the G-8 summit in June are criminal, but not unexpected."

The two sides have reached an accord on some issues, the documents indicated. Rather than having all the G-8 members adopt the European Union's goal of improving energy efficiency by 30 percent by 2030, for example, the latest declaration would have the E.U. take the lead, saying its work will foster "the discussion in the relevant bodies of G8 member countries." The declaration also endorses the idea of reducing emissions by helping developing countries preserve their forests.

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