U.S. rejects German climate position: G8 draft

LONDON (Reuters) - The United States has rejected Germany’s bid to get the Group of Eight to agree to tough cuts in climate warming carbon emissions, according to a draft of the communique to be presented to next month’s meeting.

Activists of German environmental group 'BUND' hold a melting globe during a protest against greenhouse gas and climate change in front of the security fence at the venue for the upcoming G8 summit in Heiligendamm May 25, 2007. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

The blunt language of the rejection sets the scene for a showdown at the summit to be held at the German resort of Heiligendamm from June 6-8.

“We have tried to ‘tread lightly’ but there is only so far we can go given our fundamental opposition to the German position,” the U.S. said in red ink comments at the start of a copy of the draft communique seen by Reuters on Friday.

“The treatment of climate change runs counter to our overall position and crosses multiple ‘red lines’ in terms of what we simply cannot agree to.”

G8 president Germany wants the meeting to agree targets and timetables for steep cuts in emissions and increases in energy efficiency in transport and power generation.

A source close to the negotiations described them as “very tense.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, supported by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, wants agreement to curb the rise in average temperatures this century to two degrees Celsius, to cut global emissions by 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 and to raise energy efficiency in power and transport by 20 percent by 2020.

The United States, which rejected in 2001 the Kyoto Protocol on cutting carbon emissions as economic suicide because it was not binding on boom economies China and India, is adamantly against any binding targets or timetables.

Washington, despite the fact that several U.S. states are starting up Kyoto-style carbon trading schemes, also rejects carbon trading because of its implicit emission caps.

“The proposals within the sections titled “Fighting Climate Change” and “Carbon Markets” are fundamentally incompatible with the President’s approach to climate change,” said another red-inked paragraph in the draft.

Environment group Greenpeace said the U.S. stance gave the lie to confident statements by Blair that Washington’s position was moderating as the summit approached.

“This shows more clearly than ever that despite his protestations to the contrary Tony Blair’s efforts to persuade George Bush of the importance of tackling climate change have singularly failed,” said Greenpeace director John Sauven.

Friends of the Earth head Tony Juniper said: “Not only do these delaying tactics and obstructive actions threaten people across the planet, it shows that the President is also out of touch with U.S. public opinion.”

Developing countries argue that as most of the pollution in the atmosphere came from the developed nations, they should bear the brunt of the bill for tackling its causes and effects.

Negotiations to expand and extend Kyoto beyond 2012 when it lapses are barely moving and diplomats are hoping Heiligendamm will agree a declaration strong enough to revitalize the talks.

They say success at Heiligendamm -- which will include the leaders of major developing nations India, China, Mexico, Brazil and South Africa -- would raise hopes a UN meeting in Bali in December could agree outline principles for new post-2012 talks.

Failure in Germany could delay the process even further and risk leaving a post-2012 vacuum given the time it is likely to take to negotiate and ratify any Kyoto replacement.