City might host talks on global warming
President Bush has proposed a major international forum in Honolulu next month
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The world's worst greenhouse gas-emitting countries could start working on how to do better next month in Honolulu.
President Bush has asked 17 industrialized nations to gather Jan. 30-31 for a climate change meeting here.
But some observers fear that European nations could boycott the meeting over disappointment with last week's climate meeting in Bali.
"The Bush administration's role in the U.N.'s Bali summit on climate change has been absolutely consistent with its strategy on global warming over the last seven years: obstruct, confuse and delay," said U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie.
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A proposed international climate change meeting in Honolulu next month could draw attention to global-warming concerns of the world's islands, local observers say.
President Bush has invited representatives of the so-called major economies -- the 17 countries that produce more than 80 percent of greenhouse gasses -- to Honolulu for a continuation of talks he initiated in Washington Sept. 27-28.
Such a meeting here "would be very exciting that at least Hawaii can be part of the dialogue, because there has been way too little attention paid to island states and island environments," said Denise Antolini, director of the University of Hawaii Law School's environmental law program.
But as a major United Nations climate change conference in Bali ended Saturday, it was not clear how many of the invited countries would be coming to Bush's proposed Honolulu event.
Emily Lawrimore, an assistant White House press secretary, would not confirm anything about the proposed Honolulu meeting yesterday except its dates: Jan. 30-31.
Few details about the meeting were available from local sources.
Ted Liu, director of the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, said, "I think we are all pleased that something of this magnitude and importance is going to be held in Hawaii," but said details about it would be "handled by Washington."
Liu said he believes the governmental meetings would be closed to the general public. Liu added that he hopes UH and other organizations might develop parallel talks, seminars or workshops to capitalize on the attention to climate change.
"All our citizens need to be made aware of what this overdependence on fossil fuel does to us in Hawaii," Liu said.
In the closing hours of the Bali conference, the European Union threatened to boycott Bush's Honolulu gathering if the U.S. did not agree to a goal that industrial nations would strive to cut their carbon emissions by 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.
That level of reduction was recommended by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in order to bring global warming into check.
The Bali agreement finalized Saturday removed those target numbers as a concession to the U.S.
Antolini said she would not blame the Europeans if they stayed away from the Honolulu meeting, since they would "be window dressing for this administration's feeble attempt to control the message on climate change."
Despite her activism in local global-warming panels, Antolini had no specifics Friday about a possible Honolulu meeting.
Gov. Linda Lingle's office "had heard" about Bush's Honolulu proposal but had no details as of Friday, spokesman Russell Pang said.
No information about the meeting was available Friday from the Hawaii congressional delegation. Said U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie: "The Bush administration's role in the U.N.'s Bali summit on climate change has been absolutely consistent with its strategy on global warming over the last seven years: obstruct, confuse and delay."
Lorenz Magaard, the UH oceanography professor who co-chairs the UH-Manoa Climate Commission and serves on the new state Task Force on Greenhouse Gas Emissions, said he has heard nothing of a Honolulu meeting "other than from the general press."
Magaard said he followed the Bali conference in the German media and got the impression that "if the Europeans wouldn't come, I was doubtful if the (United States) would actually have this conference."
Hawaii's Sierra Club Director Jeff Mikulina, who has been active in global-warming issues, said, "Hawaii would be a great place to showcase climate change, because we are the epicenter for research in climate change and one of the most vulnerable states in the nation."
Mikulina said he knew no details about the proposed meeting and questioned the Bush administration's sincerity on the topic, since "the United States has historically been dragging its feet on this issue."
Neither the Hawaii Convention Center nor the city's Blaisdell complex have gotten inquiries about meeting space, spokesmen said Friday.
The Hawaii Convention Center already has a major medical convention booked starting Jan. 28, which would not leave sufficient room for another meeting, a scheduler there said.
Both the Blaisdell Arena and Exhibit Hall are open, a city spokesman said.
A spokeswoman for the Sheraton hotels in Waikiki could not confirm any climate conference reservations. The Hilton Hawaiian Village policy is not to disclose facility scheduling without client permission, its spokeswoman said.
Honolulu Police spokeswoman Michelle Yu said Friday she was not aware of any request for meeting security from the Police Department.
According to the U.S. State Department Web site, participants at the September meeting in Washington included three to five participants from the U.S., China, Portugal, Russian, Japan, India, Germany, Canada, the United Kingdom, Italy, Korea, France, Mexico, Australia, South Africa, Indonesia and Brazil, plus representatives from the European Commission and United Nations.
The president's invitation to a follow-up meeting in Honolulu was extended in early December, before the Bali conference started.
The Bali agreement is to be used as a guide for negotiations over the next two years, as the world's nations decide what policy on global warming will replace the Kyoto Protocol.
The Kyoto agreement, which has not been signed by the U.S., required industrial nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.