The World from Berlin Terminator IV: Schwarzenegger vs. Emissions

In seeking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, California is distancing itself from President George W. Bush's environmental policies. Not a bad strategy for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who faces a re-election bid in the autumn.


California wants to limit emissions -- like those produced by this city bus in San Diego.
AFP

California wants to limit emissions -- like those produced by this city bus in San Diego.

It had been in the works for months, but finally on late Wednesday afternoon, California Governor Arnold "Terminator" Schwarzenegger reached an agreement with the state's Democratic controlled legislature to curb California's emissions of greenhouse gases. The plan calls for corporations in the state to reduce emissions by 25 percent by 2020, which would bring them down to 1990 levels.

Schwarzenegger's deal represents a break from his Republican Party and from US President George W. Bush's continual refusal to address global warming. The Bush Administration withdrew predecessor Bill Clinton's signature from the Kyoto Protocol and has done nothing to compel American companies to reduce emissions. The United States, while home to just 5 percent of the world's population, emits a quarter of the world's greenhouse gases.

So what does the move mean? German commentators on Friday are, as usual, loathe to wholeheartedly embrace the decision. They raise the question of whether Schwarzenegger can really be believed when he says his promotion of environmental issues shouldn't be interpreted as an attempt to set himself off from the Bush administration. They also ruminate on what they identify as California's penchant for progressive environmentalism.

"People in California have always liked to be a little different," opines the center-left daily Süddeutsche Zeitung. The paper suggests that the "eternal Californian desire for something new" helps explain why Hollywood and Silicon Valley are located where they are, and points out that much of the environmental legislation that exists in the United States today was first introduced in California and then "exported to the east coast." So will the same happen this time? Not likely, the paper concludes. Schwarzenegger's move "distances himself from the president's energy policy." Bush may be claiming that he wants to cure the US "addiction to oil," but that doesn't mean he's turning into an environmentalist, the editorial argues. "Bush is looking for new energy sources, and if the environment benefits, then that's at best a side effect." The conclusion: California remains the exception, and the environmental measures promoted by Schwarzenegger shouldn't be read as a sign that the United States are beginning "to pay their ecological debt in the worldwide struggle for climate protection." Still, it "is a step in the right direction, and it's definitely better than the Bush administration's ignorant policy."

An editorial in the conservative daily Die Welt reminds readers that ecological issues have been important to Schwarzenegger for some time, having already played an important role in his 2003 election campaign. The commentator suggests that Schwarzenegger's promotion of nature reserves and solar energy testify to the earnestness of the Californian governor's concern for curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Yet the paper can't help suspecting that this particular piece of legislation has something to do with California gubernatorial elections this fall. Distancing himself from Washington's policies on the environment can only help. "Whoever thinks this piece of legislation is a typical pre-election stunt is right. Schwarzenegger is more likely to distance himself from President Bush than to accept help from Bush if he wants to win the elections in November." Climate protection is the perfect campaign issue, the commentator points out. "A Californian governor is more likely to benefit form his commitment to climate protection than from difficult views on immigration or explosively rising energy costs."

Schwarzenegger's apparent effort to distance himself from Bush is an issue that leftist daily Die Tageszeitung also develops. "Schwarzenegger's Climate Action Isolates Mr. Bush" reads the teaser for the paper's editorial piece on the new Californian legislation. After praising the law as "taking a giant step forward in the struggle to prevent a climate catastrophe," the paper argues that "what Schwarzenegger has started is a climate policy earthquake that is making chairs wobble as far away as Washington." The metaphor is carefully chosen: As the editorial points out, it was another natural catastrophe -- Hurricane Katrina -- that dealt a serious blow to President Bush's credibility, even leading to what the commentator calls "Bush's darkest day as a crisis manager." The editorial suggests it's no accident the Californian legislation should arrive on the exact anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's devastation of New Orleans. The paper notes that "Schwarzenegger is getting plenty of applause. And every clap is a slap in the face for Bush." Die Tageszeitung has long focused on environmental issues and, unlike Süddeutsche Zeitung, points out that California isn't alone in addressing climate change concerns -- New York will likely come on board and more than 200 American mayors have brought their cities in line with Kyoto. "Bush," the editorial concludes almost gleefully, "has never been more isolated."

-- Max Henninger, 12:35 pm, C.E.T.


What Next for the Middle East ?

Iran's move to ignore the United Nations deadline -- which expired yesterday -- on ceasing uranium enrichment is hardly a surprise. But just as they have been for weeks, German commentators wonder on Friday what should be done next. After all, in vowing to continue his country's nuclear program, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is sounding more defiant than ever.

For center-right daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, it "comes as no surprise" that Tehran has not bowed to the UN ultimatum, and merely shows Ahmadinejad's "lack of respect" for the Security Council. While "it cannot be said for certain" whether or not the activities at Iran's various nuclear plants are geared to domestic or to military needs, "it's clear Iran has used the past weeks cleverly, consistently expanding its facilities while the great powers spent their time coming up with ever new threats and incentives," the commentator writes. Plus, the nuclear dispute with the UN has been redefined as a test of strength with the West. Given the "difficult situation in Iraq and in Afghanistan" and "Israel's military performance against Hezbollah, a performance widely perceived as mediocre," Tehran currently thinks it isn't doing too badly, the editorial argues. Which is why it is time to make the country pay for its confrontational course. And that means painful economic sanctions. The one thing the Security Council shouldn't do is "give in for fear of rising oil prices," the commentator argues.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad refuses to bow down to the United Nations.
AP

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad refuses to bow down to the United Nations.

"Before the War" is the title of the Iran editorial in center-left daily Berliner Zeitung. The author argues -- somewhat predictably given the paper's traditional belief that the US is inherently militaristic and aggressive -- that the United States are firmly resolved to intervene militarily in Iran. The stationing of UN troops in Lebanon following the recent conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, the paper blathers on, is a first step towards preparing such an intervention. Indeed the Israeli offensive against Hezbollah was the first step in that invasion. As for Iran, The US, "which wants to consolidate their hegemony in the Middle East," will begin by demanding "harsh punishment" for Iran's refusal to bow to the UN ultimatum, the commentator predicts. Then, after some diplomatic squabbling between China, Russia, France and the United Kingdom, there will be "a few sanctions of mainly symbolic character," whereupon "Iran will declare it doesn't care about the new Security Council resolution." "And then?" the commentator asks. He answers his own question by citing US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's April 2006 remark on the possibility of a new "coalition of the willing" against Iran, as well as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's more recent statement that the US militarily has the capacities to conduct an attack on Iran despite already being active in Afghanistan and Iraq. "It reminds one of the fall and winter of 2002/2003," the commentator writes, "the time before the US invasion of Iraq … except this time things would likely turn out a lot worse." Germany, meanwhile, will be drawn into the conflict by virtue of it having sent troops to Lebanon. Terrorist attacks in Germany will be one probable consequence. The editorial ends by wondering about the ineptness of a German government which "ignores the obvious link between the war in Lebanon and the crisis in Iran."

-- Max Henninger, 3:25 p.m. , CET

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