Bush Sets Emissions Summit

By Michael A. Fletcher
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 4, 2007

President Bush yesterday formally invited top officials from the world's leading economic powers to take part in a climate change summit aimed at establishing voluntary goals for lowering greenhouse gas emissions while sustaining growth.

The meeting follows a May pledge by Bush to convene the world's leading economies -- and most prolific polluters -- to find a solution to the problem of climate change that would both promote energy efficiency and encourage prosperity.

"Science has deepened our understanding of climate change and opened new possibilities for confronting it," Bush said in the letter of invitation.

Long wary of the effectiveness of global environmental agreements, Bush tried to seize the initiative on global warming with his pledge to initiate a series of meetings to set flexible, long-term goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. He said his approach would allow countries to find their own best paths to reducing pollution. The proposal marked a clear shift for Bush, who had come under international criticism for his opposition to participating in the Kyoto Protocol, a United Nations-led environmental agreement that will expire in 2012.

The United States, the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, is not a party to the Kyoto agreement, which calls for the 35 participating nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Rapidly developing countries including India, China and Brazil are not bound by the deal, despite booming growth and worsening air pollution in those nations, a factor that has caused Bush to call the accord unworkable.

Many environmentalists and some lawmakers oppose the approach, saying that anything short of mandatory targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions falls short of what is needed to address the threat posed by climate change.

"We need binding emissions targets across the economy and across borders," Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) said. "Our only hope is that this president, who just a few years ago was questioning the science behind climate change, may wake up one day and finally decide he is ready to lead on this critical issue."

Bush said the climate meeting would be scheduled for Sept. 27 and 28 and would be hosted by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. He asked that the participating nations send delegations that include a senior official and aides who can address environmental, economic and energy issues. Bush plans to address the gathering.

The White House sent the invitation to the European Union, France, Italy, Germany, Britain, Japan, China, Canada, India, Brazil, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Australia, Indonesia, South Africa and the United Nations.

Bush issued his invitation as nearly 100 countries took part in a United Nations meeting on climate change, an early step in moving toward a replacement for the Kyoto agreement. The White House said that the meeting being spearheaded by Bush should complement the U.N. process.

"We expect the results in 2008 from these major economies to contribute to the global agreement under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change by 2009," White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said.

In his letter of invitation, Bush said he envisions the two-day Washington summit allowing the major world economies to agree upon a post-Kyoto framework for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

He said the meeting would place "a special emphasis" on how the nations could work with private companies to promote clean energy technologies. The initial meeting would be followed up by a series of other sessions in 2008 to refine the plans.

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