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Differences over Climate Change Cloud G8 Summit

June 6, 2007 at 6:05 PM EDT

MARGARET WARNER: The protesters who converged on today’s opening of the G-8 summit on Germany’s Baltic coast are nothing new for such gatherings, but what was different this time were the very real tensions inside among the leaders of the world’s richest industrialized countries.

Two major issues are roiling this meeting: relations with Russia; and how to deal with climate change. President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin have been locked in a war of words this week over U.S. plans to build a missile defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. President Bush says it’s to protect Europe and the U.S. against nuclear threats from Iran and North Korea, but Russian President Putin condemns the plan and threatens to retarget Russian missiles at Europe.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, President of Russia (through translator): We are not satisfied with the explanations which have been presented to us. We think that there is no reason for placing an anti-missile system in Europe.

MARGARET WARNER: Yesterday in Prague, Bush sought once again to allay Putin’s concerns.

GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: Russia is not our enemy. The enemy of a free society such as ours would be a radical, or extremists, or a rogue regime trying to blackmail the free world in order to promote its ideological objectives. And so my attitude on missile defense is — is that this is a purely — it’s not my attitude, it’s the truth — it’s a purely defensive measure, aimed not at Russia, but at true threats.

MARGARET WARNER: The other tension, on climate change, pits the Bush administration against its European allies. Summit host German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to use this G-8 summit to establish new climate change goals and commitments.

Specifically, Merkel wants her summit partners to commit to negotiating a binding global agreement that would cut carbon dioxide emissions in half by 2050 and cap the increase in global temperature at two degrees Celsius, just under four degrees Fahrenheit.

She also wants the new accord negotiated through the same international process that produced the existing Kyoto agreement, which the Bush administration rejected six years ago.

ANGELA MERKEL, Chancellor, Germany (through translator): If we could make sure that this process is tied into an international United Nations framework, then it would be a major step forward, because today the situation is not satisfying.

MARGARET WARNER: But last Thursday, President Bush countered with his own plan.

GEORGE W. BUSH: By the end of next year, America and other nations will set a long-term global goal for reducing greenhouse gases.

MARGARET WARNER: He wants the deal negotiated only among the 15 major polluters, including China and India, to set a long-term, voluntary goal, reducing greenhouse gases without mandatory caps. On Monday, China, which is an observer at the G-8 summit, announced its own plan, aiming to raise energy efficiency, but opposing mandatory caps, as well.

As the leaders greeted each other today, they pledged to work to overcome their differences.

ANGELA MERKEL (through translator): I do hope and trust that a very strong message will come out of this summit meeting, and we started here on a very good footing, indeed.

GEORGE W. BUSH: I also come with a strong desire to work with you on a post-Kyoto agreement about how we can achieve major objectives. One, of course, is the reduction of greenhouse gases; another is to become more energy independent.

Disagreement over Kyoto Protocol

Frederick Kempe
The Atlantic Council
The feeling on the U.S. side is that Kyoto just hasn't worked. It hasn't included the major emitters -- China and India -- and it really hasn't resulted in much reduction in emissions.

MARGARET WARNER: They have two more days of meetings to reach agreement.

And for more on the summit, particularly the chances for a climate change deal, we go to Fred Kempe, president and CEO of the Atlantic Council, a group promoting transatlantic relations. He's a former Wall Street Journal reporter and publisher of the Wall Street Journal Europe.

And Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, Washington bureau chief of the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit.

And welcome to you both. Fred Kempe, how far apart actually are the U.S. and Europeans going into this meeting on climate change?

FRED KEMPE, The Atlantic Council: Well, this is the irony of the disagreement, is that there's so much agreement now that President Bush turned the corner with his State of the Union, and for the first time accepted climate change, for the first time accepted that there was global warming, and that it was caused by man, and on top of that, one should reduce the energy input, one should reduce the gases that go out. So that's all agreed on both sides; those are big agreements.

The biggest point of disagreement is Kyoto and whether Kyoto is the litmus test of how to measure one going forward. And the feeling on the U.S. side is that Kyoto just hasn't worked. It hasn't included the major emitters -- China and India -- and it really hasn't resulted in much reduction in emissions. Between 1990 and 2006, the Europeans are only down 1 percent, and they're mandated to go down by 8 percent by 2012.

So the argument on the U.S. side is the process isn't working, and we need to enter a new process. And this is what this is all about. And Americans and Europeans often disagree with that.

We are very results-oriented, we Americans, and Europeans are much more process-oriented, and that grows out of a history where the European Union, European Coal and Steel Community before, was a process that ended war. They believe in process, believe in the United Nations. We believe an institution really only works when it shows results.

MARGARET WARNER: Do you see it that way, Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, that this is really about process?

THOMAS KLEINE-BROCKHOFF: There is one element of it that is about process. The question is whether you do it in a United Nations framework or, as Mr. Bush has just proposed, an alternative way of dealing with it, with the 15 biggest polluters.

Now, the question is whether proposing just three or four days before the G-8 summit is, as some Europeans contend, a Trojan horse, to deflect rather than to engage.

MARGARET WARNER: You mean that's how many Europeans saw the Bush proposal of last week?

THOMAS KLEINE-BROCKHOFF: Yes. And then there is a second issue, of course: The Europeans would like to see mandatory caps. Mr. Bush has proposed aspirational goals, free for every nation to fulfill or not to fulfill, to which some Europeans would say, "Well, if volunteerism on that basis worked so well, why don't you then invite citizens to pay taxes on a voluntary basis?"

A difference in political culture

Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff
Die Zeit
The Europeans will have to now make up their mind whether they would want to save the world or want to save their worldview. Their worldview is that global affairs should be governed and should be led through the United Nations.

MARGARET WARNER: Fred Kempe, is there not also a difference maybe in the political culture of these two continents, that is that the Europeans or these European governments believe more in the efficacy of government mandates and sort of top-down mandates, and that at least the Bush administration believes in technology, or at least that's what they say, that, in the end, the answer is going to come from the private sector and technological advancement?

FRED KEMPE: There are three ways to reduce carbon emissions. One of them is to shrink your economy. The other is to trade your pollution through credits to other countries, and that's what's been happening under the E.U. system, where one has been able to sell these off to China. And the third is to change the way your economy works.

The U.S. believes much more in changing the way your economy works over time; it also believes that you're never going to get China to agree to mandated targets. You're never going to get India to agree to mandated targets, so why pursue that? And that's the point of bringing these 15 countries together, which is 85 percent of the emissions. They represent 85 percent emissions.

And I differ with Thomas in one respect, because I was just on the phone with a State Department official who made very clear this is not to be unconnected to the U.N. process. In fact, the U.S. will be in Bali in December negotiating.

It's still paying a lot of the R&D under this process in the United Nations, but to get the 15 to agree, those that control 85 percent of the emissions, would then work into the U.N. process and would help it to go forward. So it's not really meant to rival or either disrupt the U.N. process, but rather to help it along, as this official said.

MARGARET WARNER: Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, Merkel said in an interview with I think Der Spiegel in the past couple of weeks that this was a red, red line for her, this question of the process, whether it was the U.N. process or whether as opposed to the Bush approach. Why is that such a big deal to her, to the Germans?

THOMAS KLEINE-BROCKHOFF: Well, the Europeans will have to now make up their mind whether they would want to save the world or want to save their worldview. Their worldview is that global affairs should be governed and should be led through the United Nations.

Now, Mr. Bush hasn't been the biggest proponent of that worldview. And he's proving it again by putting out this proposal to invent a new group to do that.

Now, Fred is exactly right. The Kyoto Protocol hasn't been able to include the biggest polluters. Now, the suspicion on the European side is that Mr. Bush would be able to rally the biggest polluters to have very limited commitments, and you have a club of the dirty then that does very little. So it's not only about process; it's also about a process that can achieve these results.

Public opposition to Bush

Frederick Kempe
The Atlantic Council
You still have a great public opposition to George W. Bush. There's enormous suspicion of anything he says or does...clearly, the public doesn't believe in George W. Bush's climate change initiatives.

MARGARET WARNER: How much is the European response or view of the Bush proposal and what he's doing at this meeting colored by the history of the last six years, the rejection of Kyoto, Iraq war?

THOMAS KLEINE-BROCKHOFF: Of course it is. One has the impression now the relationship is coming full circle. The distrust of Mr. Bush started with his rejection of the Kyoto Protocol, which was dear to many Europeans.

And now, six years later, we're coming back to a moment where Mr. Bush is not wanting to give enough in the European perception, at least. And they will have to now make up their mind whether it is progress to see Mr. Bush speak the word "global warming," speak the word "commitments," or whether it's the European model of doing things.

MARGARET WARNER: Fred Kempe, what other prospects -- I mean, you've covered affairs in Europe for a long, long time, and you've been to a lot of summits like this. Given all the tensions right now between the U.S. and Russia, the Europeans and Russia to some degree over the missile defense system and the progress of democracy or lack thereof in Russia, what do you think are the prospects for really getting any kind of a deal here, whether it's on climate change or some of the other issues they want to look at, poverty in Africa or Iran?

FRED KEMPE: Well, I think that the prospects are better than they've been for a long time. You have a real change with Nicolas Sarkozy leading France. You have a real change in Angela Merkel leading Germany, rather than Gerhard Schroeder. And you have a more friendly situation toward the United States in Europe than in a long time.

The problem is, you still have a great public opposition to George W. Bush. There's enormous suspicion of anything he says or does. And, clearly, the public doesn't believe in George W. Bush's climate change initiatives.

The interesting thing is the leaders are actually more willing to give this a chance. So it's a very interesting situation, where Tony Blair, Angela Merkel and Sarkozy, I think they're going to work some sort of language deal that will get some compromise language that will embrace how much the U.S. has come forward.

The problem is, their publics have been so attached to the target, so attached to Kyoto, I don't know how they're going to walk this line. Angela Merkel has to show that she's not capitulating to George W. Bush, but on the other hand she wants to capture the progress that she's made in pushing him forward and then take some credit for it.

The new leaders of the G8

Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff
Die Zeit
With Sarkozy in, Brown coming in, and Putin and Bush on their way out, you will see a changing dynamic in this process, as in many others.

MARGARET WARNER: How do you think these conflicting pressures are going to play out? Do you think, for instance, that if there is no deal that Angela Merkel really likes that she nonetheless would want to sort of paper it over and not be public about it?

THOMAS KLEINE-BROCKHOFF: Well, they're already doing damage control. They're not trying to raise expectations at this point, because she has invested in George Bush. And her problem is that she may have overcommitted herself, that she has been asking him too much, and that, as some commentators have already said, you're seeing her an awful lot looking like Tony Blair, of doing a lot and getting very little. That's her problem in this.

MARGARET WARNER: You mean that's what the German press is saying?


MARGARET WARNER: So you agree that -- yes, go ahead, Fred.

FRED KEMPE: The one thing that's interesting is the Japanese don't want the mandated targets. And the Japanese lead the G-8 next year when they hope to negotiate a new deal for post-2012, in other words, the agreement that would follow Kyoto.

So it's very interesting that the country that will come next is actually worried that the Germans may go too far, get what they ask for, and then there will be no way that they can undo this next time around. So I think that's quite telling.

MARGARET WARNER: In fact, political timing is very important here, because we not only have Sarkozy new, but Blair on his way out, both Presidents Putin and Bush approaching their last year. What effect do you think that's having?

THOMAS KLEINE-BROCKHOFF: Well, we're seeing a new group of leaders in Europe. Angela Merkel has been very good at becoming, actually by default, the leader of Europe for this period of time, because you had a lame-duck French president and a lame-duck British prime minister.

Now, with Sarkozy in, Brown coming in, and Putin and Bush on their way out, you will see a changing dynamic in this process, as in many others. And that will put this group in the driver's seat, for a while at least.

But coming back to the climate change issue, there is a little irony here. Of course, mandates don't mean that you don't do technology. Actually, Britain and Germany, especially, are leading the process with their technology right now.

MARGARET WARNER: All right, we have to leave it there. Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff and Fred Kempe, thank you both.