Condoleeza Rice, speaking this evening, as reported by the BBC. Here’s an extract:

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said climate change is a real problem, and world leaders should forge a new global consensus on tackling it. At a meeting of the top 16 polluting countries, Ms Rice said the US was “a major emitter” and was not “above the international community on the issue”.

She said that the “growing problem” should be resolved under UN auspices.

Critics voiced concern that the US was trying to rally support for voluntary rather than binding emission cuts.

This would dilute attempts to reach a global agreement through the UN, ahead of the expiry of the Kyoto Protocol in 2012.

All nations should tackle climate change in the ways that they deem best

Condoleezza Rice

Motives behind Bush’s summit

US President George W Bush, who rejected the Kyoto Protocol in 2001, has opposed mandatory cuts, calling instead for voluntary approaches – echoed by China and India.

At the talks in Washington, Ms Rice said: “Though united by common goals and collective responsibility, all nations should tackle climate change in the ways they deem best.”

She challenged leaders to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels by moving toward energy sources that would reduce global warming – but without harming their economies.

Well, it could be argued that at least the Bush Government is starting to ‘talk the talk’, but nobody expects anything from his speech tomorrow, other than a call for a voluntary, non-binding, agreement. Wouldn’t it be great if China turned round and said ‘not good enough…’?

One question would be the apparent contradiction for any signatories between operating ‘under UN auspices’ and ‘in the way they deem best’. Does this mean that the UN should be seen as the authority on the matter, or does it mean that no matter what, the US will not be bound by the UN to an agreement? Take a guess.

As yet, there is still no indication that the Bush administration is willing to see beyond the short-term interests of its own people, and to see those interests in primarily economic terms. One question I would ask of Whitehouse watchers, though, is, if Bush’s people felt that the house might push through a bill which proposed real emissions cuts, would they feel compelled to pre-empt it by forcing through a much weaker bill in advance, to force it out into the cold?