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World's Biggest Polluters Gather for Climate Change Meeting

The Bush administration has brought together most of the world's largest polluters for talks on confronting global climate change. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice opened the meeting of officials from 17 nations responsible for four-fifths of the world's pollution, among them the United States, China, and India.

She said global leaders must forge a new international consensus to address the daunting challenge of climate change.

"We all represent many different interests and opinions," said Rice, "but ultimately we need to answer just one fundamental question: what kind of world do we wish to inhabit, and what kind of world do we intend to pass on to future generations?"

The United States, China and India oppose mandatory cuts in greenhouse gases sought by most European countries and the United Nations.

Earlier this week, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon convened an unprecedented summit conference on climate change, aimed at setting the stage for a U.N. conference in Indonesia later this year. Mr. Ban said he believes many industrialized countries are ready to commit to deeper reductions of carbon dioxide and other gas emissions.

Secretary Rice said Thursday that the United States supports U.N. goals for climate change but does not believe there is a "one-size-fits-all" approach to balancing economic growth and environmental protection.

"Every country will make its own decisions, reflecting its own needs and its own interests, its own sources of energy and its own domestic environment," she said. "Though united by common goals and collective responsibilities, all nations should tackle global climate change in the ways they deem best."

In the United States, Rice says President Bush is working to reduce gasoline consumption, improve vehicle efficiency, and encourage the development and use of alternative fuels.

Rice says the current system is no longer sustainable, and simply managing the status quo is not an adequate response because the present path forces the world to make what she says is an unacceptable choice.

"Either we sacrifice global economic growth to secure the health of our planet or we sacrifice the health of our planet to continue with fossil-fueled growth," she said. "This is a choice that we must refuse to make."

Rice says the two-day conference in Washington hopes to agree on long-term goals for greenhouse gas reductions and greater cooperation with private industry on setting new strategies for beyond 2012, when the current Kyoto protocol on climate change expires.

President Bush opposes the Kyoto protocol which was signed by more than 160 nations. He says it would hurt the U.S. economy and does not include emerging economies. Mr. Bush is expected to address the meeting Friday.

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