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Differences over Climate Change Cloud G8 Summit

Members of the Group of Eight industrialized nations met in Germany Wednesday for the start of a three-day summit at which a main topic will be climate change. A German journalist and American international policy advocate discuss the conference.

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    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.


    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.


    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.


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


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


    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.


    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.

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