ANY idea that George W Bush's ability to make a global nuisance of himself was almost over received a nasty setback on Thursday when he announced an American initiative to deal with the urgent problem of global warming and climate change.

Yes, that's correct. After six years of saying that no such problem existed and that even if it did its solution could be found in new technology, Mr Bush now wants to call a conference of the world's 15 major emitters of greenhouse gases to talk about what needs to be done, on the prior understanding that any agreement reached would not be binding on those taking part.

It would be laughable if it were not so nearly tragic. The so-called Kyoto treaty on regulating emissions has been relatively successful given that the United States, China and India have refused to take part. It is now necessary to make plans for an extension or replacement of the Kyoto agreement in 2012; a UN conference to start this process takes place in December with the aim of getting global participation in the next treaty. Now Mr Bush says he wants the major emission producers to take a different approach on which no one has been consulted. Greenpeace has called Mr Bush's plan “a classic spoiler”.

Global warming is also high on the agenda for next week's G8 meeting in Germany. The timing of Mr Bush's initative is either thoughtless or deliberately insulting to other G8 members. Perhaps both.


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