By Juliet Eilperin
The Washington Post/Seattle Times
WASHINGTON — Negotiators from the United States are trying to weaken the language of a climate-change declaration set to be unveiled at next month’s G-8 summit of the world’s leading industrial powers, according to documents obtained Saturday.
A draft proposal being debated in Bonn, Germany, this weekend by senior officials of the Group of Eight includes a pledge to limit the global temperature rise this century to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit and an agreement to reduce worldwide greenhouse-gas emissions to 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
The United States is seeking to strike that section, the documents show.
Many scientists have warned an increase of more than 3.6 degrees this century could trigger disastrous consequences such as mass extinction of species and accelerated melting of polar-ice sheets.
The documents show that U.S. officials also are trying to eliminate draft language that says, “We acknowledge that the U.N. climate process is the appropriate forum for negotiating future global action on climate change.” Industrial and developing countries have used the United Nations as the forum for crafting climate agreements for years.
Neither the White House Council on Environmental Quality nor the State Department could be reached for comment Saturday.
Since taking office in 2001, President Bush has consistently advocated more climate research and voluntary energy-efficiency measures as the way to address global warming.
The G-8 leaders are scheduled to sign off on the global-warming declaration, “Growth and Responsibility in the World Economy,” during their June 6-8 summit in Heiligendamm, Germany. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, along with departing British Prime Minister Tony Blair, have been pushing for a strong statement on climate change as part of the June meeting, and newly elected French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in his acceptance speech last week that global warming is his top priority.
The U.S. representatives in Bonn, however, are trying to soften the message of the climate-change document by deleting sections that would call on the industrialized world to modify activities linked to recent warming. They also proposed striking one of the document’s opening phrases: “We underline that tackling climate change is an imperative, not a choice. We firmly agree that resolute and concerted international action is urgently needed in order to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and sustain our common basis of living.”
Philip Clapp, who heads the advocacy group National Environmental Trust and has read the document, said U.S. opposition to the draft declaration could strain the country’s relationship with its allies and jeopardize the world’s ability to cut greenhouse-gas emissions in the coming decade.
“The administration is proposing to eliminate any statement that acting on global warming is urgent and all measures that will begin to reduce global-warming pollution, including any proposal to improve the energy efficiency of our economy,” he said. “A continued U.S. refusal to take a lead in combating global warming will set back progress for years.”
Bush administration officials are also resisting calls for efficiency targets in the declaration, this in particular: “Therefore we will increase the energy efficiency of our economies so that energy consumption by 2020 will be at least 30 percent lower compared to a business-as-usual scenario.”
Clapp said it is difficult to predict how the negotiations will play out. “The question is, who blinks?”