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Climate Change Talks Conclude in Paris

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Major Economies Meeting in Paris: Just a Band-Aid?The third “Major Economies Meeting” concluded in Paris today after getting of to a rocky start in the wake heavy criticism of president George Bush’s speech on Wednesday calling for a halt to U.S. emissions growth by 2025, considered by most as not ambitious enough and without any real policy proposals to meet even this goal.

Perhaps the harshest criticism of Bush’s speech came from German Environmental Minister Sigmar Gabrial whose press release about the speech was entitled “Bush’s Neanderthal speech. Losership, not Leadership” – I suppose George and Sigmar won’t be throwing back a beer together anytime soon.

Other industrialized nations have agreed to consider emissions reductions of 25–40% by 2020 over 1990 levels as they negotiate the new United Nations climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol that expires in 2012.

The IPCC has said that global emissions will need to peak by as early as 2015 to mitigate the worst potential consequeces of global warming, a full decade before Bush’s “aspirational” goal.

Participants at the meeting included 17 nations representing 80% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. 

Talks took on a more constructive tone once initial reaction to Bush’s speech died down and representatives got down to business. “Substantive progress” was made said Yvo de Boer, head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Though that progress falls short of  agreement on specific targets of reducing global emissions 50% by 2050.

The Major Economies Meetings, or MEM, is a process started by George Bush last fall in Washington amid widespread skepticism of his environmental record, with a second meeting in Hawaii earlier this year and the next MEM slated for July, coinciding with a G8 summit in Tokyo.

At deadlock remain the United States and developing nations, who have stated they will not sign on to the 2050 50% emissions reduction target at the July meeting until the U.S. takes more substantive and aggressive action to curb their emissions.

Environmental Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said “I would be very surprised if there are specific numbers by July because the rest of the world is waiting…for that strong enough signal from the U.S.”

It is generally expected that will not happen until the Bush Administration leaves office in January of 2009.


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