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Climate Change Tops Agenda at Opening of G-8

President Bush arrives at the G-8 summit in Germany on Wednesday with a new plan on climate change, as leaders of the major industrialized countries gather for three days of talks.

The talks however are likely to be overshadowed, however, by a bitter debate between the U.S. and Russia over Washington's plans to base a missile defense in Poland and the Czech Republic.

On Wednesday, President Bush discounted Russian President Vladimir Putin's threat to re-target missiles on Europe, telling The Associated Press that "Russia is not going to attack Europe."

Meanwhile, several hundred protesters swarmed a seven-mile fence surrounding the summit grounds in Heiligendamm, Germany, where Bush and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were to meet. Police fired water cannons to disperse the crowd.

On the issue of climate change, Bush is also likely to get a frosty response from other leaders, many of whom are likely to see the latest plan from Washington as too little, too late.

"The United States has finally taken a step, great. What we don't know is whether it's a step backward, or sideways," said Thomas Valasek, who heads the foreign policy program at the London-based Center for European Reform.

"But most people would agree it's not a step forward, not in the sense of supporting anything the Europeans, under the aegis of the Kyoto protocol, have agreed on," he said.

The Kyoto protocol is the current mechanism to cut greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. The U.S. never ratified Kyoto, but it did sign the umbrella United Nations treaty that aims to avoid dangerous human interference with the climate. White House environmental adviser James Connaughton said President Bush's proposal is intended to fit with that U.N. framework convention.

"It was never anybody's intention to have a separate process," he said. "The U.S. is a party to U.N. framework convention on climate change, and that is the forum where the world takes action on climate change."

However, he reiterated the administration's belief that the Kyoto method for cutting greenhouse gasses won't work in the U.S.

"We'll have a successful summit if things have moved on from before. I believe the commitment to accept reduction goals and to recognize scientific findings is a step forward," Merkel said.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

International Correspondent Emily Harris is based in Jerusalem as part of NPR's Mideast team. Her post covers news related to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. She began this role in March of 2013.