U.S., European Leaders Initiate Dialogue to Avert Climate Change
VIENNA, Austria, June 21, 2006 (ENS) - The United States and the European Union have agreed to "act with resolve and urgency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," a new relationship for the two governments. The two sides have for years been at odds over the Kyoto climate protocol, which the EU has ratified, but the Bush administration has resisted.
At their annual Summit meeting, held today at Hofburg Palace in Vienna, President George W. Bush and EU President Manual Barroso agreed to establish a new EU-U.S. High Level Dialogue on Climate Change, Clean Energy and Sustainable Development that will hold its first meeting in the fall in Helsinki, Finland.
At the press conference after the formal Summit, President Bush commented on the new climate relationship in a way that indicates he still does not support the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty that imposes legally binding greenhouse gas emissions targets. Instead, he relies on technology to solve the climate change problem.
"We talked about energy," said President Bush in his only comment on the subject. "I kind of startled my country when, in my State of the Union, I said we're hooked on oil and we need to get off oil. That seemed counterintuitive for some people to hear a Texan say. But the truth of the matter is, we got to diversify away from oil. And the best way to do it is through new technologies."
"We agreed we would share technologies between our nations and between the EU and the United States. The EU needs to get diversified, as well," Bush said. "And so this is going to be a very interesting period for us as new technologies develop and we're willing to share those technologies."
President Barroso said, "We have agreed to establish a European Union and United States high-level dialogue on climate change, clean energy, sustainable development, to address ways to get cost-effective emission cuts, development and employment of new technologies, efficiency and conservation, renewable fuels and other environmental issues such as biodiversity."
Barroso called energy "a geostrategic question" and said he was the one who initiated the energy partnership during a meeting in February, in Washington. "I also welcome the high level - the agreement on a high-level dialogue between European Union and United States on climate change and sustainable development," he said.
The high level dialogue is intended to build on existing bilateral and multilateral initiatives and further advance implementation of the G-8 Gleneagles Plan of Action for Climate Change, Clean Energy and Sustainable Development, the leaders stated in their Summit declaration.
Among topics of importance for this dialogue, the leaders declared, "will be experience with different market-based mechanisms to promote cost-effective reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, advancing the development and deployment of existing and transformational technologies that are cleaner and more efficient, producing energy with significantly lower emissions, efficiency and conservation, renewable fuels, clean diesel, capture of methane, lower emitting agricultural operations and energy production and distribution systems, as well as other environmental issues."
The upcoming G8 meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia where energy security will be at the top of the agenda, is expected to be a success, said Barroso. "We believe it should be an occasion to reinforce our message for an open, stable, non-discriminatory, transparent market on energy. So energy is a global issue and it should be tackled globally."
Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel of Austria, which now holds the rotating EU Presidency, said, "Given the worldwide increase in energy demands, and at the same time, limited resources, security of supply is of strategic importance. And therefore, we welcome the establishment of a strategic cooperation between America and Europe."
"We are committed to develop a coherent energy strategy that not only emphasizes security of supply, but efficiency, sustainability, and climate protection," Schuessel said.
In their Summit declaration, the leaders also agreed to promote strategic cooperation to "accelerate investment in cleaner, more efficient use of fossil sources and renewable sources in order to cut air pollution harmful to human health and natural resources, and reducing greenhouse gases associated with the serious long-term challenge of global climate change."
They agreed to, "Improve energy security by enhancing the dialogue with the main transit, producer and consumer countries and by promoting diversification of energy sources and supply routes worldwide and notably in the Caspian sea region, Middle East, continental Africa and Latin America."
The governments said that from now on they will conduct an annual strategic review of EU-U.S. energy cooperation.
To promote energy efficiency, the leaders initialled a new Energy Star Agreement which provides for cooperation on improving the efficiency of world-wide traded products. Energy Star is a U.S. government standard for energy efficient appliances.
The leaders agreed to "make more and better use of renewable energy sources" and develop "environmentally-friendly low emission power generation technologies, hydrogen energy, carbon sequestration, cutting gas flaring and biofuels."
The agreement states the governments will continue cooperation through the International Partnership for a Hydrogen Economy and increase collaboration over regulatory, standards and trade issues affecting alternative fuels and emerging technologies, especially hydrogen.
They pledged to cooperate on developing efficient, transitional transport technologies, and fuel standards, such as plug-in hybrids or efficient diesel engines, as well as energy efficiency in buildings.
"Bolstering and ensuring the highest levels of physical and environmental security and safety of energy infrastructures, as well as the highest level of nuclear safety, is crucial to the durability and sustainability of the global energy system," they declared.
Finally, they said, "Addressing energy poverty endured by many of the world’s poorest people who will still lack access to modern energy services is a priority."
"One thing is sure; the world now is very complex," President Barroso said. "Even together we are not sure that we will solve all issues. But if we don't work together it will be much more difficult to face global challenges. I believe this summit was very helpful for having this closer relationship between the United States and Europe so that, together, we can do our best to make the world a better place."