The prospect looms of a major clash between the United States and its G8 partners over global warming, with Washington's view threatening to block agreement at next month's summit of the leading industrial nations.
The US objects to the Germany-proposed climate agreement on many levels
German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel Saturday criticised the US climate policy in a newspaper interview, saying it "was going to difficult to achieve success" at the June 6-8 session hosted by Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has made climate change a priority during Germany's presidency of the Group of Eight.
The environmental protection group Greenpeace Saturday published a leaked document showing that the United States had raised serious new objections to a proposed global warming declaration prepared by the German hosts.
It looked to observers as though US objections in the form of amendments had drained the substance from the German statement.
"The United States still has serious, fundamental concerns about this draft statement," the document stated.
Washington rejects the idea of setting mandatory emissions targets, as well as language calling for G8 nations to raise overall energy efficiencies by 20 percent by 2020.
Merkel's proposed climate statement calls for limiting the worldwide temperature rise this century to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit and cutting global greenhouse gas emissions to 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
"The treatment of climate change runs counter to our overall position and crosses multiple 'red lines' in terms of what we simply cannot agree to," the US document said.
Sources close to negotiations told AFP the US amendments seek to remove any idea of an urgent problem of climate change requiring a firm international response.
US rejects climate change as an 'urgent problem'
A follow-up climate protocol to Kyoto could also be in danger
"The preliminary sessions clearly indicate the American desire to minimalise (the draft)," said one European diplomatic source.
The US was refusing to take account of findings by an Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Climate Change, whose latest conclusions have been used by the Germans in their draft climate statement, the source said.
"I can't remember any major international climate meeting with that kind of complete divergence of views," said Phil Clapp, head of the National Environment Trust in Washington. "There is a fundamental disagreement between the EU and the Bush administration positions. It's hard to see how governments could sign the sort of statement that Washington wants."
Clapp added that "at this point we don't see signs that the (Bush) administration will change its position... and as a matter of fact the signs go in exactly the opposite direction."
In Washington, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino played down the document leaked by Greenpeace while acknowledging differences. "We believe that there are many different approaches to climate change," she said. "By no means is there a final document."
Washington does not recognise the UN Convention on climate change as an appropriate forum for multilateral negotiations on global warming, but only as one of several possible forums.
Kyoto successor also in doubt
The US denies the scientific evidence is conclusive
This also does not augur well for a conference scheduled in Bali in December at which states signatory to the Convention will have to negotiate a follow-up to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change which runs out in 2012. The US has not signed the protocol.
"These latest proposals display a complete absence of reconciliation between the American technological approach and that of the EU..." said the diplomatic source.
"And all this despite appeals by major American companies and Republican Party personalities like Arnold Schwarzenegger."
On May 18, senior US lawmakers wrote to Bush expressing deep concern over reports that his administration was seeking to weaken a G8 declaration on climate change.
"US leadership is critical to tackling this global threat.... But we need an executive branch that engages the rest of the world to solve this problem rather than stubbornly ignoring it," the 15
heads of congressional committees wrote in a letter.