Bush Calls for International Emissions Effort
ALEX COHEN, host:
From the studios of NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Cohen.
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
I'm Madeleine Brand.
Today President Bush announced that the United States is finally ready to talk with the world about climate change. For the last six years, he has been reluctant to engage with other leaders on global warming. But today President Bush called for a meeting with the world's top producers of greenhouse gases. He wants the U.S., China, India and a dozen other countries to agree on goals to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
COHEN: The president made the speech in advance of next week's G8 Summit in Germany. Joining us now is NPR's White House correspondent, Don Gonyea.
Welcome back to the program, Don.
DON GONYEA: Hi. Happy to be here.
COHEN: Don, what can you tell us about the president's plan for climate change?
GONYEA: Well, he is engaging the world in ways that he has not done in the past six, seven years of his administration. But there's still a lot of questions as to how serious this is, how real it is. If we listen to the president, there is an acknowledgement that climate change does need to be addressed as a global issue. And he does think that the largest nations in the world all need to agree on what to do. Again, the keyword here is as a goal - as a goal to address the problem. Let's listen to the president from today.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: If developed this goal, the United States would convene a series of meetings of nations that produce most greenhouse gas emissions, including nations with rapidly growing economies, like India and China.
GONYEA: Now, again, the key here is that he needs China and India to be included, because China and India were exempt from the initial stages of the 1997 Kyoto treaty. And that was why the president walked away from that treaty in 2001.
Some of his language today, though, is still - it's still pretty vague. Let me read you this one quote. He says, "Each country would establish midterm management targets and programs that reflect their own mix of energy sources and future energy needs," end quote.
I'm not sure what that means. So a lot to be sorted out yet.
COHEN: No mention of the word, like, emissions or caps there.
COHEN: Why all this talk of goals and whatnot now? What's the timing?
GONYEA: Well, there's pressure because all of this will be a prime topic of discussion at the so-called G8 - at the group of eight summit of the world's leading economic powers. It's being held in Germany, and again, it takes place next week.
It's interesting. I have been to every one of these annual G8 conferences. They always take place at a different site around the world. The U.S. has hosted one of them since I've been covering the Bush administration in 2001. And since 9/11, these economic conferences have always been dominated by talk of terrorism and talk of international security and passport control. And for a while about banding together on an issue like Iraq - an issue where the president had mixed success in bringing the world along.
But again, these are supposed to be economic summits. And it's interesting that an issue like this is finally coming to the fore again, kind of supplanting terrorism. And it does get to how much things have changed for the president.
COHEN: This is Bush's seventh G8 summit. How has his stance on climate change evolved over time?
GONYEA: Let's just quickly listen to a piece of tape from him from 2001. Here it is.
President BUSH: We do not know how much our climate could or will change in the future. We do not know how fast change will occur or even how some of our actions could impact it.
GONYEA: That is the president right after rejecting Kyoto. It's a president who is not ready to even acknowledge that climate change is a serious problem. He now says he recognizes it's a problem. But again, there's still plenty of disagreement - plenty of disagreement as to what should be done to address it.
COHEN: NPR's White House correspondent Don Gonyea, thanks so much for joining us.
GONYEA: My pleasure.