Representatives from 17 major economies plus the United Nations called for rapid progress in implementing the Bali Roadmap as they wrapped up a two-day closed-door meeting on climate change Thursday.
The participants "welcomed the Bali Action Plan to launch a comprehensive process to enable a full, effective and sustained implementation of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to result in a decision in 2009 for a long-term cooperative action," said James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality at the press event after the meeting.
They "underscored the importance of rapid progress in implementing the Bali Action Plan and noted that Major Economies Meetings (MEM) can assist the UNFCCC toward a successful outcome,"he said.
Describing the atmosphere of the meeting as "constructive," Connaughton said the participants have been focusing on how the U.S.-sponsored meeting can contribute to the climate change negotiations under the UN framework.
The discussion took into account common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, he noted.
Using political jargons, the official said the participants also discussed the "desirability" of a summit by participating countries in mid-2008.
Among other things, the representatives welcomed Japan's hosting of a clean energy technology workshop in Chiba, Japan, in mid-March.
They also agreed to consult on the MEM process at that time.
France has offered to be the host of another MEM, Connaughton said.
Known as the Major Economies Meeting on Energy Security and Climate Change, the Honolulu meeting serves as a follow-up to the first round of U.S.-hosted climate change talks among major economies last September in Washington.
The idea of bringing together the world's major economies for climate change talks was initiated by U.S. President George W. Bush in May 2007, when the United States was under growing pressure to contribute more to solving the problem of greenhouse-gas emissions.
Although the Bush administration repeatedly said the Hawaii meeting is simply to supplement the UN efforts in battling climate change, there are suspicions that it is intended to sidetrack the UN climate talks and push forward its own agenda on the issue, which the U.S. government denies.
At the climate change talks in Bali, Indonesia, last December, the U.S. government agreed to help constitute a new accord to replace the emissions-limiting Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.
However, it is still resisting a global agreement on specific emission reduction from all developed nations.
At the Honolulu meeting, U.S. officials reiterated that the country has different understandings on mandatory pollution reduction with the rest of the world.
"We have our own views on the issue," Connaughton said.
Although doubts of U.S. motive behind the meeting still remains,delegates said they welcomed the change of U.S. attitude on climate change.
Brice LaLonde, the French climate-change ambassador, said the new U.S. attitude is "a good start," though "we want more" from the country.
After all, just several years ago, President Bush didn't acknowledge the climate change as the result of human activities.
"Now we are seeing that the United States is discussing the matter," LaLonde said.
"We welcome this move. Of course we are waiting for the next step, which would be that the United States will also have a goal in reducing its greenhouse gases, joining in the way all other developed countries adopt."
"We had a very constructive debate," said Matthias Machnig, state secretary at the German Environment Ministry.
"It's very important to have an international regime of mandatory targets based under the umbrella of the United Nations and hopefully we made a step forward here to come to real agreement in 2009," Machnig said.
A major question for the meeting is how much input it can contribute to the UN process.
Halldor Thorgeirsson, deputy executive director of UNFCCC, remained silent at the press event after the meeting.
Yvo De Boer, UNFCCC executive secretary, used "could" and "if" to express his expectation for the meeting.
"The process could make a contribution to the ambitious goals of the UN negotiations," de Boer said at the opening session of the meeting Wednesday.
"If countries represented at the meeting manage to take the Bali decisions to a next stage, process can be accelerated and the ambitious deadline of 2009 can actually be met," he added.
Nevertheless, the sense of urgency to advance the Bali Roadmap can be felt by every participant of the meeting.
Shaun Vorster, special adviser to South African environment minister, said the sense of urgency was everywhere throughout the meeting.
"The clock is ticking," said Koji Tsuruoka, an official from the Japanese Foreign Ministry.
"There is no time left that the world can lose," de Boer said, adding there is actually a bit more than one year left to complete negotiations to agree on a new climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol.
Another worry is that since the United States will welcome a new president next year, it is unclear how long the MEM will exist.
But officials of the Bush administration argued that the U.S. climate policy will be consistent no matter who is in power, saying any major policy decision on climate change will have to be based on strong bipartisan support.
Some 160 representatives from the EU, the United Nations, Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy,Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, Britain and the United States attended the conference.