Climate change and the G8

President Bush announced a proposal for climate change in response to criticism that the United States was largely adopting a "Just Say No" approach to Climate Change. President Bush's announcement today, however, was a huge disappointment. He called for a summit of the United States and other nations that emit greenhouse gases with the goal of setting a long-term global strategy for reducing emissions.

Too little. Too late. Bush's proposal simply postpones the real hard work on Climate Change. And, as you can see from the graphic to the left, U.S. carbon emissions have gotten worse, not better, since Bush became President.

The Economist has a good analysis of the Climate change debate as we come closer to the G8 conference:

The new American initiative seems an admission that its previous strategy has failed. At a conference in Laos in 2005 it recruited Australia, China, India, Japan and South Korea to an outfit with that approach, called the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate. Canada's conservative government toyed with joining the partnership and announced that it would not be able to reduce emissions by as much as it promised at Kyoto. But it recently pledged instead to reduce emissions by a more modest amount by 2020, and says it has no objections to Mrs Merkel's 50% target by 2050.

Australia's government, too, seems to be wavering in its opposition to mandatory emissions caps. The opposition, which is ahead in the opinion polls, has promised to sign the Kyoto protocol. In response, the government created a commission to come up with a new approach on climate change; it handed over its conclusions this week. The prime minister is now expected to unveil a more exacting policy based on these recommendations before calling an election later this year.

Indeed, world leaders seem to be competing with one another to churn out ever more ambitious targets on global warming. Shinzo Abe, Japan's prime minister, has decided to make climate change one of the centrepieces of his tenure. He too has produced a plan for a 50% cut in global emissions by 2050. Tony Blair, Britain's outgoing prime minister, has an even more ambitious reduction in mind, of 60%. The European Union as a whole has agreed to reduce its emissions by 20% by 2020, and offered to increase the figure to 30% if non-European countries make commitments of their own. Norway, meanwhile, hopes to become the world's first “carbon neutral” country, by reducing its emissions to zero by 2050, or paying for equivalent reductions elsewhere.

All this leaves America with few allies at the G8. Nicolas Sarkozy, France's new president, has urged the Americans not to obstruct attempts to tackle climate change. Even Russia is likely to support Mrs Merkel's stance, since its emissions have fallen dramatically since 1990, thanks to the industrial collapse that accompanied the break-up of the Soviet Union. It also stands to benefit from the trade in credits for emissions reductions allowed under Kyoto.

Nonetheless, America is likely to stick to its guns. After all, Mr Bush resisted similar pressure from his friend Mr Blair ahead of the G8 summit in 2005, which also addressed global warming but resulted in only an anodyne statement. Most European governments assume that little progress will be made until a new American administration takes office in 2009.

In the meantime, global emissions continue to grow. Indeed, the growth appears to be accelerating. A study recently published by America's National Academy of Sciences found that worldwide emissions, which had been growing by 1.1% a year in the 1990s, grew by more than 3% a year between 2000 and 2004. That is faster than the most pessimistic projections of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a body set up to make authoritative pronouncements on the science of global warming. It is also faster than economic growth, implying that the world is not just consuming more energy, but also making it ever more dirtily.

Even the G8 members that are enthusiastically embracing ambitious targets are struggling to cut their emissions. Only Britain and Russia are now on target to meet their obligations under Kyoto (see chart). Meanwhile, emissions from India and China have almost doubled since 1990. No wonder the row over the G8's summit communiqué is getting hotter and hotter.

Read it all.


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