Bush prepared to be 'constructive'


The Financial Times reports that George W. Bush has said that he was prepared to be 'constructive' in discussions on climate change at the G8 meeting in Japan.

However, he insisted that any agreement was contingent on the participation of China and India.

The Group of Eight leaders, who began a three-day summit in Hokkaido, northern Japan, on Monday, are seeking to advance from last year’s commitment at Heiligendamm, when they pledged to 'consider seriously' halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Some G8 leaders would like that statement upgraded to 'agree to halve emissions', though the US has been reluctant to commit.

On Monday the G8 met African leaders for discussions which focused on finding solutions to the crisis caused by sharp rises in food prices. Japanese officials said leaders might consider proposals to create stockpiles of grain that could be released in a co-ordinated way to stabilise prices.

The summit - the biggest in G8 history with leaders of 14 countries outside the group invited - will discuss what Kazuo Kodama, press secretary of Japan’s foreign ministry, described as a “nexus of interrelated issues”. These are expected to include rising oil prices, the financial crisis and ways of preventing nuclear proliferation, even as the use of 'carbon-free' nuclear energy becomes more attractive.

José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, said he would like G8 leaders to commit to carbon emission cuts by 2020. “We will be working for real commitments from this G8 - not only reinforcing ones taken last year, but also, if possible, to go beyond that with a mid-term commitment.”

Mr Bush and Yasuo Fukuda, Japan’s prime minister, said on Sunday that they would press big developing nations - particularly China - to agree to carbon cuts as part of a global agreement to succeed the Kyoto protocol, which expires in 2012.

After meeting his Japanese counterpart in Toyako, the site of the summit, Mr Bush, said - “I’ve always advocated there needs to be common understanding and that starts with a goal. I am also realistic enough to tell you that, if China and India don’t share the same aspiration, we’re not going to solve the problem.”

China and India, both part of meetings at which climate change will be discussed, have argued that they cannot be expected to cut emissions before they have industrialised. Mr Fukuda hopes to encourage concessions with cash and technology to help their transition.

Although the Japanese leader has spoken about a convergence of views on climate change, he has also sought to play down expectations of a breakthrough at Toyako. Experts say significant agreement is unlikely, largely because the deadline for a post-Kyoto deal is still 18 months away.

Marthinus van Schalkywk, South Africa’s environment minister, described a pledge to cut emissions in half by 2050 as an “empty slogan”. Many experts are pressing for rich nations to commit to cutting carbon emissions by 25-40 per cent by 2020.