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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Swede Meet

Air Date: Week of

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President Bush meets with members of the European Union on June 14. On top of the agenda will be his climate change policy. Cynthia Graber reports.


TOOMEY: President Bush will be in Sweden on June 14th for his first official meeting with representatives of the European Union. Missile defense and trade will be among the Administration's top agenda items. But EU nations are looking to the meeting as an opportunity for the White House to outline its position on climate change, before negotiations on the global warming treaty resume next month, on Bonn, Germany.

Living on Earth's Cynthia Graber reports.

GRABER: The meeting itself is nothing unusual. Every six months since 1995, the U.S. has met with representatives of the European Union. But this meeting provides the first chance for EU ministers to assess the official Bush stance on climate change. Phillip Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust, will be one of many traveling to Gotenberg, Sweden, to see first-hand what takes place.

CLAPP: This is particularly important summit. If the United States refuses to commit itself to any binding action to reduce its global warming emissions, I think it's going to be a major, major disaster for American foreign policy.

GRABER: The Bush Administration's decision earlier this year to back away from the Kyota Agreement angered the leaders of many European countries. The administration has not released any statement about what the President plans to say at the June 14th meeting, but, based on previous statements of both the President and the Vice President, the expectation is that the President will reject mandatory reductions of greenhouse gas emission and instead emphasize voluntary targets.

Kenneth Green is director of environmental policy for the Reason Public Policy Institute, a conservative think tank.

GREEN: It's voluntary, but you're offering incentives to have them upgrade emissions technology, or to buy cleaner fuel vehicles, to retire old equipment factors. It's not simply a matter of saying, we ask you to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions. There's much more to it than that.

GRABER: Phillip Clapp of the National Environment Trust says President Bush, Sr., tried a voluntary approach after the Rio Summit on global warming, back in 1992.

CLAPP: The U.S. is now 13% above its target level under the Rio Treaty. Now, that was a voluntary treaty. That's why negotiations began on a binding treaty that led to the Kyoto protocol.

GRABER: Voluntary reductions aren't expected to sit well with the European Union, whose members have vocally opposed them in favor of mandatory cuts.

And now there's additional pressure on the President to come up with a policy with teeth. Last month, the administration requested a review of the conclusions on global warming put forth by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change. The National Academy of Sciences recently released that report. The committee concurs with the conclusions of the IPCC, saying climate change is likely the result of human activities and is getting worse.

White House officials say that President Bush will include this information as he formulates his climate change policy. For Living on Earth, I'm Cynthia Graber.

TOOMEY: Coming up, the little train that almost could, and why walking can be hazardous to your health. First, this consumer note from Jennifer Chu.



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