EU chief slams Bush climate plans


Berlin : European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has sharply criticized plans outlined by US President George W. Bush to cut greenhouse gas emissions, saying the United States needs to set more ambitious goals.

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In remarks to Financial Times Deutschland (FTD), Barroso said Friday he did not expect an agreement on concrete climate protection measures at next week's Group of Eight (G8) summit.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is hosting the summit in Heiligendamm, has put the issue on top of the agenda.

Bush, however, told a German newspaper he was confident that Merkel would back the initiative he put forward in a speech in Washington Thursday.

In remarks to the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper, the US president rejected speculation that disagreement between officials working on a climate change text for approval at the G8 meeting had soured US-German relations.

In his remarks to FTD, Barroso said the US had "special responsibility as a large emitter of pollutants."

"It is clear that we need a more ambitious position from the US," he added.

Barroso's strong criticism follows Merkel's cautious welcome to the Bush initiative. Speaking Thursday, Merkel said Bush's speech represented movement on the previous uncompromising US position on setting greenhouse gas emission targets and an "important step on the road to Heiligendamm."

Barroso, who will be present at the G8 meeting, came out strongly in favour of binding emission targets.

"The US is relying strongly on market mechanisms in the battle against climate change, and rightly so," he said. "But market mechanisms only work when one has binding targets."

Barroso expressed the hope the US would see the need to bring the United Nations (UN) into the process, adding that the G8 summit should provide a launch pad for the UN climate protection meeting in Bali in December.

Noting that Bush leaves office in January 2009, the European Union (EU) head expressed the hope for a "real breakthrough to the post-Kyoto era in 2009."

Bernd Pfaffenbach, a senior German official preparing the ground for Heiligendamm, acknowledged that there was no common line on the issue.

Pfaffenbach said "exaggerated expectations" had been generated in the run-up to Heiligendamm and did not rule out failure to reach accord on climate protection.

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which calls for limited reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from the industrialized world, runs out in 2012.

The US has not ratified the treaty and demands that rapidly developing countries like China and India be brought into the process.