G-8 Leaders Trade Conflicting Views on Warming

Demonstrators blocking a main access road to G-8 meetings are hit by water from police water cannons. (By Evan Vucci -- Associated Press)
By Michael A. Fletcher and Craig Whitlock
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, June 7, 2007

HEILIGENDAMM, Germany, June 6 -- As thousands of protesters clashed with police nearby, President Bush and leaders of other industrial nations traded markedly opposing views here Wednesday on how to combat global warming.

Despite the refusal of the United States, China and some developing countries to agree to calls for mandatory cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, Bush expressed optimism that the summit of the Group of Eight countries would result in agreement for a common strategy.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, host of the gathering at this Baltic Sea resort, has said she wants action on global warming to be the centerpiece of the meeting. She has pushed for specific numerical targets for lowering gas emissions by 50 percent by 2050 and holding temperature rises to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

As an alternative, Bush has offered to convene a series of meetings among the world's 15 top greenhouse gas-emitting nations with the goal of reaching consensus on nonbinding goals for reducing the pollution. Scientists say the gases are the prime cause of the current warming trend.

Asked by reporters whether he could relent and sign on to Merkel's goals, Bush said: "No. I talked about what I'm for. Remember? I said I'm for sitting together with the nations to sit down and discuss a way forward."

During the first day of the summit Wednesday, the United States and Russia toned down their rhetorical sniping, pending a meeting Thursday between Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Bush emphasized that his global warming proposal is not intended to undercut the United Nations-led process for forging global action on the issue, which many environmental activists suspect.

Bush and Merkel had a working lunch at the outset of the summit, and afterward both leaders emphasized their points of agreement. "There are a few areas here and there we will continue to work on, but I trust that we will work out joint positions," Merkel said.

Bush has opposed U.S. participation in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which sets binding targets on countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But his new plan, he said, is intended to complement the U.N. process for forging goals after Kyoto expires in 2012.

"This will fold into the U.N. framework," Bush said. "And that enables us to get China and India at the table to discuss how we can all move forward together." Under the Kyoto agreement, China and India are exempt from mandatory cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

While the summit participants disagree on binding goals for addressing climate change, they all agree that they share a goal of addressing the problems, which German officials call significant progress.

As the world leaders met, thousands of protesters eluded police to converge on a seven-mile-long fence that the German government had erected around the hotel and conference center in Heiligendamm.

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