Starting Wednesday 30 January 2008, the USA is hosting the world's largest CO2 emitting nations in Hawaii for the second round of talks which President George Bush has promoted as an alternative to the obligatory emission reductions commitments sought under the Kyoto protocol. With US primaries ongoing and Super Tuesday looming, the BBC news reports that some EU delegates believe that Bush is simply gambling that lukewarm commitments can "neutralise climate as an issue in the forthcoming US elections." Nonetheless, the Europeans seem to be attending with more open minds. Will Bush freeze progress, or is there hope for advances before the next administration?
TreeHugger has been nominated for two Bloggy Awards Best Topical Weblog and Best Group Weblog. Please vote for us now! (Hint: To find us, scroll toward the bottom of the page.)
The Bush venue, known as the Major Economies Meetings (MEM), brings together the world's 16 largest greenhouse gas emitting nations (excepting Iran), accounting for 2/3 of global CO2 emissions. Balking by the US on Kyoto nearly led to a boycott of Bush's talks. But after a grudging Bali compromise was eked out at the last hour, the MEM parties are returning to the table with open ears.
Delegates' hopes are spurred by the commitment of funding to make clean technology accessible to developing nations which was hinted at in Bush's recent final State of the Union address. However, they point out that the commitment fails to impress: America's offer of $700 million per year ($2 billion total) pales in comparison with Japan's commitment of $2 billion per year ($10 billion total). Even the much smaller UK has committed $500 million per year to the effort.
However, the resistance of the current administration to action is so great as to force US cities to pick up the slack by committing to their own Kyoto-city targets, under the mayor's climate protection agreement. So it is easy to believe German environment minister Sigmar Gabriel, who is quoted in Der Spiegel: "A real breakthrough can only be expected after the American presidential election". American voters: watch Hawaii, and make sure your ballot counts in the next presidential election if you want to see a warm in the political freeze and a freeze on global warming.