Leading article: More shabby delaying tactics

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The Independent Online

All the recent scientific evidence suggests that the process of climate change is occurring at a faster pace than previously predicted. Only last week we learned that Arctic ice has melted to its lowest level ever. And a series of reports from the scientific network of the United Nations has warned of rising sea levels, drought and hazardous weather conditions unless we begin to take action immediately to bring down our greenhouse gas emissions. So the representatives of 150 countries, including 80 world leaders, who attended a UN climate change summit in New York yesterday certainly had enough to talk about.

This was, of course, merely a preliminary event. The summit was designed to build political momentum for the official UN Climate Change Convention Conference negotiations to be held in Bali in December. But the UN climate chief, Yvo de Boer, was still demanding yesterday that world leaders demonstrate a new sense of urgency over the threat.

One world leader from whom Mr de Boer is not likely to get that is George Bush. The US President is indulging in his usual shabby delaying tactics. He did not turn up to the UN meeting. Instead, he is hosting a meeting of 16 major economies, including China and India, in Washington at the end of the week. We can have a pretty good guess what strategy President Bush will be pushing at this meeting. And it will not be the same as that proposed by the UN.

The President opposes Kyoto-style legally binding reductions on emissions of greenhouse gases on the grounds that they would harm the US economy. He claims to want voluntary cuts and an emphasis on technological solutions to the problem. But there is scant evidence that the market alone is able to provide these. President Bush also refuses to accept restrictions on US emissions on the grounds that the same demands would not be made of China and India. But this ignores the fact that America is a mature economy, while the latter two are developing nations.

To engage with the President's logic, however, is probably a futile exercise. The White House has dragged its feet over the threat of climate change for seven years. First it tried denying the science. When that became impossible, it began to argue that technology would provide the solution. Now it seems more concerned with disrupting UN efforts to deal with climate change than looking for genuine alternative solutions.

The scientific argument for rapid action is stronger than ever. But still the world's largest economy refuses to engage honestly with the crisis. It is an abnegation of leadership of epic and scandalous proportions.

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