Bush, EU Leaders Fail To Bridge Differences Over Kyoto Protocol

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:09 PM EDT

London (CNSNews.com) - President Bush's first meeting with European Union leaders ended Thursday with the two sides unable to bridge their differences over the Kyoto Protocol on global warming.

A joint statement issued after the summit in Gothenburg, Sweden said both sides recognized the need for strong leadership to reach a global solution on climate change, but that gaps remained over Kyoto.

Bush last March announced he was abandoning the 1997 treaty negotiated in Kyoto, Japan, which calls on specified nations to reduce their emission of "greenhouse gases" claimed to contribute to global warming.

He said he would not accept a treaty that would "harm our economy and hurt our American workers," and pointed out that it did not place the same demands on the developing countries to reduce their emissions.

The decision was roundly condemned by the EU, which said it would nonetheless press ahead toward the goal of ratifying the protocol next year. Swedish Prime Minister Goeran Persson reiterated that position at a press conference after Thursday's summit.

Before leaving for his first European tour this week, Bush announced new funding for research into climate change, but the step left the EU and environmental activists unimpressed.

The talks over Kyoto were described in a statement released after the meeting as "one of the most complicated items on the agenda."

"As expected, no agreement was reached on this issue at the summit. Both sides reaffirmed their previous statements," the statement read.

It was agreed that a group of representatives would be set up, to continue discussions on issue of climate change "in a constructive and flexible manner."

An optimistic Bush told his European hosts he was looking forward to a "constructive relationship."

His administration was, he said, "deeply committed to a prosperous Europe and whole Europe and a free Europe."

The joint communique voiced similarly upbeat sentiments, saying the bilateral relationship was founded on enduring ties and shared fundamental values. There was no reference in the text to the death penalty, which the EU strongly opposes.

"What unites us far outweighs that which divides us," the document said. "From this foundation, we are determined to forge a common and cooperative approach to the complex and changing global environment in which we live and the new challenges we face."

Other issues on the table Thursday included trade and the situation in the Middle East, the Balkans and Korea.

The U.S. and EU issued their first joint statement on the situation in Israel and the Palestinian Authority areas, giving their full backing to the recommendations of the fact-finding commission headed by former Sen. George Mitchell, aimed at reducing the level of violence and returning the antagonists to negotiations.

It urged both sides to implement the recommendations unconditionally, and affirmed support for the principle of "land for peace" - the relinquishing of land captured by Israel during previous wars in return for peace with its Arab neighbors.

The EU welcomed Washington's decision to resume talks with North Korea.

Last March, Bush expressed skepticism about the likelihood of Pyongyang complying with any future agreements on its missile program, and he said he would not soon resume talks on the subject begun under the Clinton administration.

The EU saw the move as detrimental to efforts to improve relations between North and South Korea, and senior EU officials subsequently traveled to the divided peninsula for their own talks.

On trade, the sides discussed how to resolve bilateral disputes quickly, to avoid escalation. A new round of World Trade Organization talks will start in the fall.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow