Muckraker: Grist on Politics

On Monday, George W. Bush will travel to Hokkaido, Japan, for his eighth and final G8 summit, where climate change is likely to be the subject of heated (ahem) talks. At last year’s meeting, leaders agreed to seriously consider a goal of cutting global greenhouse-gas emissions 50 percent by 2050.

But the Bush administration continues to resist mandatory targets, and in a speech on Wednesday, Bush made sure to again emphasize “technologies” over regulation. “I’ll be reminding people that we can have better energy security and we can be better stewards of the environment without sacrificing economic growth,” said Bush.

He also said he would urge other leaders of the Group of 8 not to act without developing countries: “Look, we can’t have an effective agreement unless China and India are a part of it. It’s as simple as that. I’m going to remind our partners that’s the case.”

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Also on the agenda for this year’s summit: increasing development aid to Africa, fighting HIV/AIDS and malaria, and the global food crisis.

In addition to the G8 gathering, several fringe meetings of world leaders will take place in the near future. Japan has invited Australia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Korea, and South Africa to a separate meeting on climate change on July 9. Bush is planning to host his own side meeting of the “major economies,” which includes Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Korea, South Africa, and the European Union.

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Meanwhile, the world is getting antsy about whether a new deal will be in place when the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. International negotiators at the last meeting in Bali last December agreed to start two years of talks with the goal of having a new treaty in place at their meeting in Copenhagen in late 2009.

While we’re on the subject, contemplate this befuddling exchange from Bush’s press conference:

Reporter: Can you tell me what is the outlook for getting an agreement with the emerging economies that will limit emissions in a meaningful way in the mid term? What’s the outlook for that and how …

BUSH: Well, the first thing is to make sure we get an understanding that all of us need to agree on a long-term goal. And part of the reluctance has been on some nations that are major economies to participate at all because initially, I’m confident, they thought they were going to get a free pass from any international agreement.

I mean, after all, the Kyoto international agreement excluded, you know, major economies. And therefore, they probably think well, maybe history will repeat itself. The idea is to say, look, we want to be effective. Effectiveness comes when major economies come to the table.

The first step is to agree to a long-term goal. And, you know, I’ve talked to our sherpa about that. And he feels pretty good that people are now coming to that clear understanding that we’re going to have to come to a long-term goal.

Sherpa? Bush has a sherpa? And he provides knowledge and guidance on climate issues?