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Environment

Opinion: Climate Conference is a Lesson in Irresponsibility

Combating global warming was the stated focus of the Major Economies Meeting in Paris on April 17 and 18, but according to DW's Helle Jeppesen, the conference didn't deserve the designation "Climate Conference."

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The two-day gathering of the world's 16 largest economies was doomed even before it kicked off. On the evening of the self-proclaimed "Climate Conference," US President George W. Bush announced the US would postpone its capping of emissions until 2025. His statement, which was criticized by many as too little too late, sealed the fate of the third informal climate conference, a series of meetings which Bush himself had instituted amid skepticism about his environmental record.

The series of meetings are designed to prepare for the December 2009 Copenhagen Climate Conference and to draft a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel attacked Bush's climate plans as "Neanderthal" and argued that the US proposals were an inappropriate response to the global climate challenge.

More than just the US is to blame

Regardless of Bush's statements, the conference could not possibly have stood up to the global climate challenge, given the way it was planned and the participants who were invited. If such a discussion on combating climate change only includes the world's largest C02 polluters and not their victims, it can never claim to provide global solutions.

The countries which are impacted the most by global warming were never invited as participants in the conference, only those 16 biggest economies who contribute the most to the climate catastrophe.

If anything, the current crisis over rising food prices in many parts of the world shows just how vulnerable these other countries are. Climate change in the form of droughts and floods coupled with increased use of sustainable crops for the controversial production of ethanol as an alternative energy source has led to food shortages and soaring prices. It is the poorest countries and the poorest of these populations which are hit hardest by climate change, not the largest C02 polluters.

The G8 -- leading by example?

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who hosted the conference, called upon the emerging economies such as China and India to take on more responsibility in reducing greenhouse gases. He also urged the US to finally set concrete goals and to sign on to the successor of the Kyoto Protocol. But for his part, Sarkozy simply announced that France's expansive atomic energy program was C02 neutral.

Are these examples other countries should follow? How does the saying go: Actions speak louder than words? The world is still waiting for the actions of the G8 -- whether it's the US, France or Germany.

Climate change in the post-Bush era

The only hope for the future is that the next US president will take a stronger stance on combating climate change than George W. Bush. The positions of the candidates for the White House point to a more productive era. Both democratic candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton as well as the republican candidate John McCain have all come out strong in favor of setting emissions limits.

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