Bush Sets Climate Conference for September

President Bush invited representatives of major industrialized and developing countries to a climate change summit in September at the same time that the United Nations is holding a similar conclave.

"In recent years, science has deepened our understanding of climate change and opened new possibilities for confronting it," Bush said in his invitation letter Friday, asking other nations to take part in discussing a long-term strategy for reducing greenhouse emissions.

Under international pressure to take tough action against global warming, Bush last May had called for a meeting of nations to talk about how to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and promote energy efficiency without hampering economic growth.

He made the initial announcement at the Group of Eight summit in Germany, and now is sending out invitations for a meeting Sept. 27-28 that will be hosted by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Bush wants to bring India, China and other fast-growing countries to the negotiating table so they are part of the solution, not the problem.

The summit will address "life after" the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. The Kyoto agreement, adopted in 1997, aims to limit the amount of carbon dioxide that can be emitted from power plants and factories in industrialized countries.

The United States, the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, is not a party to the Kyoto agreement, and large developing countries such as China, the second-largest emitter, India and Brazil are exempt from its obligations. They are afraid they will be called on to reduce emissions after 2012, which would hurt their economic growth and poverty-eradication efforts.

Bush, who plans to address the conference, sent invitations to the European Union, the European Commission, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Japan, China, Canada, India, Brazil, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Australia, Indonesia, South Africa and the United Nations.

In his invitation, Bush said representatives would talk about ways the major world economies would — by the end of 2008 — agree upon a post-2012 framework that could include a long-term global goal for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. He said they also would talk about working with the private sector to promote clean energy technologies.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said he fears the meeting will be unproductive unless Bush agrees to binding emission restrictions.

"Simply restating goals without taking the steps necessary to implement them is a recipe for failure," Kerry said. "We need binding emissions targets across the economy and across borders."

The question of what to do to tackle climate change has become increasingly complex because of competing environmental, economic and energy concerns from countries with different priorities.

At the United Nations, nearly 100 countries speaking at the first U.N. General Assembly meeting on climate change signaled strong support for negotiations on a new global deal to tackle global warming. Clinching a deal will likely take several years of intense and difficult negotiations, which are expected to start at a December meeting on the Indonesian island of Bali. It will focus on a replacement for the Kyoto protocol, which requires 35 industrial nations to cut their global-warming emissions 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012, when the accord expires.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has made climate change a top priority since taking the reins of the U.N. on Jan. 1, has urged all countries to reach a comprehensive agreement by 2009, which would leave time for governments to ratify the accord so it could take effect in 2013.

Ban said he was convening a high-level meeting on climate change on Sept. 24, a day before the General Assembly's annual ministerial meeting begins. This is the same week Bush singled out for the conference he is promoting.