White House Plans to Skip High-Profile Talks on Climate
Wall Street Journal, July 31, 2006 One of the higher-profile meetings on climate change is set to bring together this week British Prime Minister Tony Blair, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and about 25 chief executive officers of major corporations around the world.
But the Bush administration will be a conspicuous no-show.
Messrs. Blair and Schwarzenegger are scheduled to exchange views with the CEOs in a round-table discussion today in Long Beach, Calif., on how to work together to accelerate the deployment of clean-energy technologies. The CEOs include Lord John Browne of BP PLC, London, whose facilities in Long Beach are being used to host the event, as well as Charles Holliday of DuPont Co., Jim Rogers of Duke Energy Corp. and Richard Branson of Virgin Group Ltd. CEOs from Edison International, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Swiss Reinsurance Co. and Timberland Co. also are scheduled to attend.
The event was organized by Climate Group, a nonprofit organization based in London. Most of the companies being represented, including BP and DuPont, have announced climate-change initiatives that include a commitment to reduce carbon emissions believed to cause global warming.
“This meeting just shows that climate change has moved to the top of the corporate agenda and the political agenda,” said Steve Howard, CEO of Climate Group.
But President Bush’s top environmental adviser, James Connaughton, won’t attend, because of a scheduling conflict, said White House spokeswoman Kristen Hellmer.
Critics say Mr. Connaughton’s absence follows an “obstructionist stance” by the White House on efforts to rein in emissions that many scientists say lead to global warming. The Bush administration pulled out of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, an agreement signed by Britain and most other developed countries to cut greenhouse-gas emissions 5% below 1990 levels by 2012. Administration officials and their supporters have argued that the Kyoto accord would have hurt the U.S. economically, in part because developing countries weren’t part of the agreement, so would have enjoyed a cost advantage. Some policy analysts also question how dire global warming is, as well as the role of humans in causing it.
President Bush has instead pushed a strategy of seeking voluntary cutbacks, more research on climate and a push for new energy sources, such as hydrogen.
For Mr. Blair, climate change has been a top priority. When Mr. Blair was chairman of the Group of Eight summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, last year, for example, he put the issue at the top of the agenda.
But Mr. Blair also is finding that cutting emissions isn’t always easy. While he said the United Kingdom is on track to meet its Kyoto targets, he indicated earlier this year “we have work to do” to meet Britain’s own goal of a 20% cut in emissions by 2010.
In California, Gov. Schwarzenegger is likely to face resistance from auto makers and other business interests to his goal to reduce the state’s emissions 25% by 2020. The Republican governor has run into political hurdles. The Democrat-controlled legislature killed a measure in 2004 to put solar panels on a million homes, though the California Public Utilities Commission went on to approve the program on its own.