Despite calls by the United Nations for agreement on curbing
greenhouse emissions, obstacles remained for participants to reach
consensus at the Hawaii international climate change meeting,
conference sources said on Thursday.
The two-day conference, known as the Major Economies Meeting on
Energy Safety and Climate Change, was marked by skepticism as
delegates were heatedly debating on ways to deter climate change
without halting development.
About 160 people representing 16 countries, the United Nations
and the European Union (EU) are attending the meeting, the second
in a series of talks initiated last year by US President George W.
Bush, with the aim of advancing UN climate change negotiations.
Bush initiated the talks when the United States was under
growing pressure to contribute more to solving the problem of
The meeting itself was met with skepticism from the beginning,
particularly from the EU and environmentalist groups. Although the
Bush administration has repeatedly said the Hawaii meeting is
simply to supplement the UN process, there are suspicions that it
is intended to sidetrack the UN climate talks and push forward its
own agenda on the issue, which the US government denies.
Some European countries had threatened to boycott the Honolulu
meeting during the UN climate conference in Bali, Indonesia last
month. But they changed their position after the United States
agreed to a roadmap in a last-minute compromise at the Bali
In the eyes of some Europeans, Bush is primarily trying to
neutralize climate as an issue in the forthcoming US elections,
said conference source, who refused to be named.
Observers said the fact that the Bush administration launched
the major economics meeting doesn't indicate some change in the
position of this administration.
"There has been no change in position whatsoever in this White
House. They were hoping to sell their position to the rest of the
world and that's not working," said Angela Anderson of the
non-partisan Pew Environment Group.
As for developing countries, they are suspicious that the United
States was using the meeting to shift the blame on to them.
The US officials attending the meeting reiterated that the
burden of cutting emissions must be shared among all the major
polluters, including major developing countries such as China,
India and Brazil.
Also at issue was the focus of the meeting. The US wanted the
meeting to shift its attention to discussing specific steps to be
taken in addressing climate change, such as eliminating trade
barriers for climate-beneficial goods and services, while the EU
insisted that focus be placed on mandatory limits on carbon
emissions specified by the Kyoto Protocol.
After the talks, an EU representative said the meeting was
"constructive" but differences remained. He refused to give
At the meeting, some participating countries adopted a
wait-and-see attitude as the United States will have a new
government next year, which might change the Bush administration's
widely-criticized climate policy, said one source.
"At this time of change, few people anticipate the Bush
administration to make any major moves on climate policy," the
source said on condition of anonymity.
The US officials were trying to alleviate such worries. When
asked by Xinhua whether such policy change was possible, Andy
Karsner, US Assistant Secretary of Energy for Office of Energy
Efficiency and Renewable Energy, said his nation would try every
means possible to ensure the continuity of policy.
He said the Bush administration has officials and experts who
had worked at the Clinton administration before, and this indicated
that the US policy was not changeable.
The UN representatives were trying to bring the conflicting
"There is no time left that the world can lose. All efforts now
must be focused on getting the negotiations on a climate change
deal off the ground to be ready by 2009," UN representative Yvo de
But for lack of consensus, no major decisions or policies were
expected from the two-day conference, the US officials hinted.
The meeting was seen more as a way of getting the world's
largest economies to push the process along, said C. Boyden Gray,
US special envoy to the European Union.
"The end product is the leaders’ declaration coming out in July,
out of the G8 summit. We hope," Gray said.
In regards to positive aspects of the meeting, one conference
source said all parties agreed that the series of major economics
meetings are supplementary to the Kyoto Protocol and not its
For the Europeans, the US engagement was what they expected the
most at present. "They are relieved, however, that the US does
appear actively engaged in climate talks at last," one source
Environmental groups watching the meeting were not optimistic.
Henry Curtis, executive director of the Life of the Land, told
Xinhua that he was not hopeful about any agreement.
"At most, it will be a voluntary standard that doesn't have to
take place for five decades, and by then it will be way too late,"
(Xinhua News Agency February 1, 2008)