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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Jim Connaughton
Chairman, Council on Environmental Quality

June 11, 2007

Jim Connaughton
Good afternoon. I just returned from the G-8 meetings in Heiligendamm, hosted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. It was a very exciting, productive and successful week. The G8 leaders recognized the importance of confronting global climate change and assuring energy security and economic growth through increased cooperation on technology. The leaders agreed on a process for developing a new international framework by the end of 2008, which will contribute to a global agreement within the UN by 2009. They also agreed to a 15 page program of action on specific subjects including technology advancement, energy security, efficiency, clean power generation (in particular carbon capture and storage), transportation (in particular biofuels), sustainable forestry, buildings and adaptation to climate change. I look forward to answering your questions.

Anne, from France writes:
Mr Connaughton, There has been a shift in the administration's policy about climate change during this G8 summit, can you explain the reasons of it? The U.S still don't want to adopt a mandatory 50 percent reduction in global emissions by 2050. Why? Thanks for your answers,

Jim Connaughton
On May 31st, in a major policy address the President announced U.S. support and commitment to leadership in effort to develop a new post-2012 framework on climate change by the end of 2008. The President’s plan recognizes that a new framework must include both major developed and developing economies that generate the majority of greenhouse gas emissions and consume the most energy, and that climate change must be addressed in a way that enhances energy security and promotes economic growth. Under the President’s proposal, the U.S. will convene these countries, who will work together to agree on a long-term global goal to reduce greenhouse gases. Each country will also work to achieve emissions reductions by establishing its own ambitious mid-term national targets, based on national circumstances.

Why now? The time is right.

In 2002, the President set a 10-year national strategy that included reducing greenhouse gas intensity of our economy by 18 percent and adding dozens of programs, including international partnerships, to research, develop, and deploy clean energy technologies needed to address climate change. At the same time, each of the 38 countries that had targets under the Kyoto Protocol have been designing their own national strategies to meet their obligations. Building and implementing our national and regional strategies has given us a strong foundation of experience with what’s working and with what’s not working.

It is also the case that the science has progressed. As the President indicated in his speech, “In recent years science has deepened our understanding of climate change and opened new possibilities for confronting it.” We have a heightened concern about the observed and projected impacts of future climate change.

Finally, we are five years away from when the commitments under the Kyoto Protocol expire, it will take several years to get a new framework in place, and we want to get the groundwork laid so that we’ve got a good plan with time to prepare for implementation when Kyoto expires.

Regarding the long-term goal, the President believes that a long term goal is needed. We just did not think that the G-8 meeting was the right time or place to agree on one. We believe that all the major energy consuming countries, including China, India, and Brazil, should be part of the process in determining what a global emissions reduction goal might be by the end of 2008. In addition, within the G-8, there were several different recently articulated proposals for what such a goal might be from the EU, Canada, and Japan. That is why, at the G-8 Summit, the leaders agreed to seriously consider the different proposals for an aspirational long-term goal, including those from the EU, Canada, and Japan.

This week, G8 leaders welcomed the President’s initiative and we were pleased to see the many specific components of his plan included in the program of action.

Vito, from China writes:
Dear Mr.Connaughton , do you think international climate would get better or worse in the next 5years?

Jim Connaughton
Since taking office, the President has devoted $37 billion to climate change research, technology, and incentives. He has put in place a series of domestic and international programs aimed at reducing emissions in an effort to first slow, then stop, and ultimately reverse the growth of carbon dioxide.

Our policies are working. The 2007 Climate Action Report states the U.S. will not only meet, but likely exceed the President’s national goal to reduce greenhouse gas intensity 18% by 2012. Further estimates show the U.S. is on the right track – in 2006, U.S. CO2 emissions declined 1.3%, while the economy grew 3.3%.

I am a strong optimist that innovators in America and around the world will advance the technologies that are needed over the long term to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, just as they have done so to reduce harmful air pollution over the last 30 or so years. With strong and growing economies and informed citizens, we will invest in our future and real progress will be made.

Danielle, from Richmond, Virginia writes:
Does President George W. Bush belive and support global warming? What is

his view on the subject? Does he think global warming will trigger an ice age?

Jim Connaughton
In June 2001 the President said “There is a natural greenhouse effect that contributes to warming. Greenhouse gases trap heat, and thus warm the earth because they prevent a significant proportion of infrared radiation from escaping into space. Concentration of greenhouse gases, especially CO2, have increased substantially since the beginning of the industrial revolution. And the National Academy of Sciences indicates that the increase is due in large part to human activity.” Since then, we have embarked on a path to slow, stop, and then reverse the growth of carbon dioxide emissions, and the President committed the U.S. to cut greenhouse gas intensity 18% by 2012. The President believes addressing climate change is a long-term effort and must be done without harming our economy or hurting American workers, something that would simply move emissions from America to other countries and do little or nothing to address the environmental problem. Climate change and the closely related challenge of energy security must be addressed together, and we must engage with developed and developing nations in ways that respect their own aspirations for growth and opportunity for their people.

Robert, from Easley, SC writes:
Why has the President changed his mind about Globel Warming? He was opposed to it, now he supports it. Why are we the only country that needs to chsnge China produces almost as much as we do?Thank you

Jim Connaughton
Since taking office, the President has consistently stated that the earth is warming and that humans play a large role. Since then, the President has pursued an aggressive, yet sensible strategy to advance technologies that foster economic growth and will reduce emissions.

Chinese emissions of greenhouse gases are expected to surpass those of the United States by as early as this year. The President firmly believes that China and other major emerging economies must also take action, according to their national circumstances, that will strengthen energy security and reduce emissions. The President has called on the active participation of the major economies, including China, India, and Brazil to develop a more practical, post-Kyoto framework. We are encouraged by the initial response of many of these countries to the President’s call and we expect to build on the strong clean energy partnerships that our governments have already developed either bilaterally (one-on-one) or by the efforts of several countries such as the 100 or so work programs now underway in the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, which includes Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and the U.S.

Randy, from Dayton, OH writes:
What sort of taxes and other restrictions are coming to "reduce emissions"? What hard evidence is there that man is contributing to global warming? Why is global warming an issue now, when we have greater environmental restrictions, and not during other times such as the industrial revolution, when no such restrictions existed? Are all Countries, such as China, Cuba, etc. going to be subject to taxes or just the United States? What will more taxes do to the state of our economy and to job creation?

Jim Connaughton
The President has initiated a broad range of policy measures to slow, stop, and then reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. Those measures include dozens of mandatory, incentive-based, and voluntary programs. New mandatory fuel standards under the President’s “20 in 10” plan, for example, will require 35 billion gallons of renewable and alternative fuels by the year 2017 that will reduce our gasoline consumption by 20 percent. We believe that this will put us solidly on the path to stop the rise of greenhouse gases emissions from passenger cars. In addition, new fuel economy regulations for light trucks (and big SUVs), covering model years from 2005 through 2011, are expected to save 14 billion gallons of fuel over the life of the affected vehicles and reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 107 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.

The U.S. did not join the Kyoto Protocol because the target it gave the U.S. would have damaged our economy, outsourced jobs, and simply moved some of our greenhouse gas emissions overseas to countries with no targets. The President strongly believes that China, India, and other major emerging economies must also take action according to their national circumstances. Under the President’s proposal for developing a post-2012 framework, countries would develop their own national strategies for strengthening energy security, improving air quality, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the mid-term. We also intend to collectively work with the private sector and develop complementary strategies internationally for making lasting progress in specific industry sectors, such as power generation, transportation, forestry, and buildings. Progress would be measured by a “pledge and review” system.

The President’s climate change policy is part of a much broader discussion that includes energy security and economic growth. The President will not support a climate change policy that harms our economy, stunts job growth, and increases our dependence on energy imports from countries that may be hostile to the United States.

Cliff, from Brimfield, Ohio writes:
Chairman Connaughton: I know the President went to the G8 with an agenda on the issues he felt was IMPORTANT. Was the President able to get some of HIS issues addressed and was he able to get some movement on the issues from the others? or just more disagreements? Thank You

Jim Connaughton
This week, leaders from around the world gathered in Germany to advance goals shared by people of every nation: economic empowerment, education, and good health. The President went to the G8 pursuing a clear strategy to bring progress and prosperity to struggling nations all across the world, increase access to trade and relieve the burden of debt, increasing our assistance to the world's poorest countries and using this aid to encourage reform, and strengthen education, and fight the scourge of disease, and work with developing nations to find ways to address their energy needs and the challenge of global climate change.

This week’s meetings were very successful. The President, in collaboration with other leaders from the G8 nations, took action to address a broad range of global issues. These include: launching a new global framework to address climate change, energy security, economic growth and sustainable development; committing to partnering with African countries to foster development, especially by enabling the private sector and combating disease; calling for a reinvigorated push for an ambitious and balanced outcome in the Doha development agenda negotiations, agreeing to continue to cooperate closely to fight terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction; calling on the government of Sudan to cease hostilities and stop the humanitarian crisis in Darfur; and advancing the common interests in critical regions, including Iran, North Korea, the Middle East, and Afghanistan.

GREGORY, from TORRANCE, CA writes:


Jim Connaughton
At the end of 2004, President Bush launched the U.S. Ocean Action Plan, a comprehensive program for fostering ocean resource conservation, national security, and economic opportunity. One important element of the plan included President Bush’s call on the Senate to act favorably on the Law of the Sea Convention because joining will serve the national security interests of the United States, secure U.S. sovereign rights over extensive marine areas and natural resources, and promote U.S. interests in the environmental health of the oceans. The Administration supports the treaty because the U.S. successfully renegotiated specific elements of the treaty over many years to address the important concerns that led President Reagan’s Administration to oppose it. The Convention, like many other broadly applicable agreements, was negotiated at the United Nations, but it now a free-standing treaty distinct from the UN. The bodies it established -- the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, the International Seabed Authority, and the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf -- are not UN bodies. President Reagan's opposition to the Convention was limited to one section, on deep seabed mining. In 1983 he stated that the United States would abide by the non-deep seabed provisions of the Convention and urged other countries to do likewise. The United States was able to negotiate an agreement, completed in 1994, that rectified all those flaws. Not being a party to UNCLOS carries with it unacceptable risks and consequences for the U.S. such as the potential erosion of navigational rights and the inability to maximize our valuable continental shelf claims. We need to join the current 155 parties to ensure that the rights we negotiated are properly interpreted and implemented, and support the interests of America and our citizens. It is time for the U.S. to declare victory and join the Convention, having taken a principled stand in opposition and then working to ensure that the treaty was improved and properly addressed the interested of the American people.

Jim Connaughton
I appreciate the opportunity to answer your questions on the important issue of climate change. I hope this discussion was informative. To view the President’s policy address on international development and climate change, please visit /news/releases/2007/05/20070531-9.html, and for information on the President’s achievements at the G8 please visit /g8/2007/. For more information on the President’s policies on the environment and climate change, please visit /infocus/environment/ and

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