The World from Berlin: Bush Has 'Understood Nothing, Learned Nothing'

Bush's plan for global warming? Wait until 2025. Only then, he said in a Wednesday speech, should the US cap greenhouse gas emissions. Germany is not impressed.

US President George W. Bush is in no hurry when it comes to global warming.
AFP

US President George W. Bush is in no hurry when it comes to global warming.

When it comes to global warming, much of the world has been resigned for years to waiting out the end of the George W. Bush presidency. Under Bush, the White House has altered climate change reports, spiked global calls for action and maintained that it would simply be too harmful to the US economy to address the growing dangers of a warming climate.

With just months to go before Bush makes way for his successor, the US president on Wednesday once again confirmed that waiting for number 44 is the way to go. Bush called for the US to halt the growth of greenhouse gas emissions -- but only in 2025. As the San Jose Mercury News wrote on Thursday: "Allowing emissions to rise for the next 17 years is not a plan; it's an abdication."

Europe, not surprisingly, tends to agree. German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel called Bush's presentation a "Neanderthal speech," and said it represented "losership, not leadership. European Commissioner of the Environment Stavros Dimas was also critical. "President Bush recognized the need for mandatory federal legislation to tackle climate change," he said. "But what he proposed will not contribute to the effective tackling of climate change."

Others were more receptive of Bush's foray into environmental policy and saw it as a move away from his legacy, which includes steadfast refusal to honor the Kyoto Protocol and leadership of a decidedly conservative Environmental Protection Agency.

"It's good to have something on the table," said Yvo de Boer, head of the UN agency that oversees international climate treaties, including the Kyoto Protocol.

German commentators on Friday weren't in the mood to be quite so generous.

In an editorial headlined "Understood Nothing, Learned Nothing," the center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

"For the first time, Bush has concretely said what the world's most dominant industrialized nation will do in the future to address global warming. His solution can be condensed into two words: absolutely nothing."

"That's a slap in the face to every citizen, local government and industry trade group -- including a growing number in America -- working to preserve the Earth's atmosphere. And it’s a mockery of those nations that have set climate protection goals, as well as a free pass for developing countries that have refused to sign a binding international treaty on climate protection."

"Far more important to climate protection than the year 2025 is the fall of 2008, when America will elect a new president. Whoever wins the election, it can only be a good thing for the atmosphere of the Earth."

The center-right Frankfruter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:

"America's president stayed true to himself. What's new about Bush's climate protection announcement is the definite deadline that greenhouse gas emissions must not climb after 2025. But Bush could not bring himself to comply with a broader agreement on emissions caps or carbon trading."

"If Bush's plan has a redeeming quality, then perhaps it's his insistence that climate protection occur without losing sight of economic goals. Indeed, the experience of the EU shows that a poorly conceived emissions trading scheme can be more trouble than it's worth."

-- Patrick McGroarty; 2:00 p.m. CET

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