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Bush shift shakes up Paris climate talks

/ Source: The Associated Press

A new U.S. call for curbing greenhouse gas emissions shook up climate talks Thursday in Paris among the world's biggest polluters.

While some welcomed President Bush's gesture, others called it too little, too late.

Bush said Wednesday that the United States must stop the growth in its emissions of greenhouse gases by 2025, acknowledging the need to head off serious climate change.

It was the first time he had set a specific target date for U.S. climate pollution reductions. He said he was ready to commit to a binding international agreement on long-term reductions as long as other polluting countries, such as China, do the same.

In Paris, South African Environment Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said Bush's speech "is a big complicating factor," throwing off the agenda for talks on Thursday and Friday in the French capital.

U.S. sponsored talks
The meetings are part of a U.S.-sponsored series of negotiations on global warming. They involve representatives from the countries that produce 80 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, blamed for heating the planet — including the United States, the 27-nation European Union, China and India.

Schalkwyk said Bush's speech "takes us backward," because it did not call for mandatory emissions cuts. Such cuts are central to U.N. negotiations on a follow-up plan to the Kyoto Protocol.

Delegates from the European Commission and the EU presidency found Bush's strategy "disappointing," said the chief U.N. climate change official, Yvo de Boer.

De Boer said Bush's speech immediately became a central topic at Thursday's closed door talks. "It is really good that there is a proposal on the table by the United States," De Boer said.

He said the Bush speech was aimed largely at a domestic audience. Bush's aides said it was aimed at heading off a "train wreck" of varying legislation in the U.S. Congress.

Slowdown 'not enough'
Chinese participant Su Wei said it was good news that Bush was talking about emissions at all. But he added, "to take measures to slow down the increase in emissions is not enough."

The Paris talks were initially meant to focus on reducing trade barriers to environmentally friendly technology, and to working out sector-by-sector targets for cutting global emissions.

They are the third in the series of U.S.-sponsored talks after meetings in Honolulu in January and New York in September.