Europe Icy to Bush's Global Warming Views

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Bush talks with Swedish Prime Minister Goeran Persson before the EU Summit President Bush and European leaders failed to agree over global warming at their summit in Sweden today. Where does this leave both sides on the issue?

James Graff: At best you can say they've agreed to disagree. The atmosphere of the talks was positive, by all accounts, and they're all emphasizing the "indispensable partnership" between Europe and the U.S. But each side was never going to convince the other to change its view of the Kyoto Accord, nor would it have been politically productive for President Bush to try and convince the Europeans to change their position.

Global warming is not like missile defense, where the President was asking the Europeans to sign onto a very vague concept — the U.S. is saying there is a threat out there; it wants to spend all this money developing a system to counter that threat, and it simply wants the Europeans to accept this. But Kyoto is different: The details are already there, and we know exactly what would be expected from the Americans, and it would cost America a considerable chunk of money to comply. So Bush's position remains no Kyoto, and the Europeans insist on going ahead.

What does that mean practically, though, in light of the fact that the U.S. is the biggest source of the carbon gas outputs that create global warming?

The Europeans are going to go ahead and ratify the treaty without the U.S., and hope that the U.S. will contribute to addressing the problem in some way through moves to reduce its own emissions. And the Bush administration is indicating a willingness to discuss ways of doing this. The administration is telling the Europeans it plans to find its own ways of cutting emissions, using emissions-trading and other market-based mechanisms. And despite rejecting Kyoto, they're planning to send a representative to the talks in Bonn where the Kyoto signatories will continue to negotiate the mechanisms for achieving the emissions-cut targets set by the treaty.

It's also interesting how, in their discussions on how to implement the accord, the Europeans are also now placing a lot more emphasis on devices such as trading emissions rights, which creates a market incentive to cut the output of greenhouse gases. When President Clinton first made those the focus of his thinking on Kyoto, the Europeans rejected that and demanded that the focus be on capping output. But it seems that once they're looking at the monies involved, they're more inclined to be more flexible in how they'd pursue the Kyoto targets. Of course, if they'd been more open to such mechanisms earlier, they may have actually made it more difficult for President Bush to flat-out reject the treaty.

President Bush appears to have fared somewhat better on the missile defense issue…

There has been a lot of criticism, some of it quite snide, in the European media about the way he performed for the press after his NATO meeting n Brussels on Wednesday. He said something there to the effect of "There's people out there trying to blow us up, and we've got to stop ‘em." To the Europeans, that epitomizes their idea of reckless cowboy talk.

Still, President Bush appears to have managed to get European leaders to begin acknowledging a need to revamp the international strategic architecture — the question is to what extent the emphasis in responding to new strategic challenges should be on expensive defensive missiles, and to what extent it should be on new multilateral agreements to control the proliferation of offensive missiles. Obviously many of the Europeans are going to put a lot more emphasis on the latter.

But the whole question of missile defense still rides very much on Saturday's meeting between President Bush and President Vladimir Putin in Slovenia. Remember, the ABM treaty is between the Russians and the U.S. The Europeans can only influence the discussion from the outside. Still, Putin's own spine will have been strengthened by the European position.