Biggest greenhouse gas polluters discuss climate change

The U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, is urging the world to forge a new global consensus in tackling climate change. At the meeting of the top 16 polluting nations, Ms Rice encouraged the use of lower-carbon energy sources. But critics fear the

Meeting in Washington for a two-day conference, the world's biggest greenhouse gas polluters tackled one of the most serious problems facing the world, that of climate change. The conference aims to find a way to reduce global warming while at the same time not affecting emerging economies.

“It is expected that emissions coming from the major emerging economies will exceed those of the developed economies this coming decade. I say this because it's a foundation to recognize that we are in this together, although the developed economies started this first. We need to find a pathway where together we can address this increasing challenge,” noted James Connaughton, Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality.

The U.S.-sponsored meeting drew participants from the top 16 polluting countries including Russia, China, and India. Earlier in the week, at the United Nations more than 150 high-level officials including 80 heads of state met for the largest ever conference on climate change. However, while the U.S. supports UN efforts to battle climate change, the Bush administration is against mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions.

“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. Though united by common goals and collective responsibilities, all nations should tackle climate change in the ways they deem best,” Condoleezza Rice stated.

A major hurdle for this conference will be to reach some consensus on a new treaty to cut emissions as the current Kyoto Protocol is set to expire in 2012. The UN is calling on developed nations to step up their efforts.

“A response to climate change can only be successful if it entails industrialized countries continuing to take the lead in reducing emissions and going well beyond present efforts, given their historic responsibility and their economic capabilities,” said Yvo de Boer, UN representative at the meeting. 

President Bush will address the climate change conference on Friday. Already some critics are pointing out that the meeting should focus on binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions, not voluntary cuts. Condoleezza Rice's comments today will have done little to assuage these critics.