Thursday, June 7, 2007

The G8 Climate Change Communique Is a Disappointment


Sadly, the G8 Communique on Climate Change largely adopts the Bush Administrations "Let's Talk Later" approach--no hard targets, no specifics, and the only real agreement is to talk some more. Here is the Washington Post summary:

Group of Eight leaders including President Bush agreed Thursday to call for substantial global emissions reductions to fight global warming and cited a goal of a 50 percent cut by 2050.

European leaders hailed the deal as progress in the wrangling between Europe and the United States over global warming, with the Europeans pushing mandatory cuts and the U.S. resisting.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who shepherded the deal as chair of the G-8 summit in this seaside resort in northern Germany, called it "very great progress and an excellent result." With Bush resisting concrete cuts, it had appeared Merkel's summit would fall short of her goal of a substantial deal on climate change.

"We agree that we need reduction goals _ and obligatory reduction goals," she said.

But the language of the declaration appeared to be well short of a full commitment. It called for the countries to "seriously consider" following the European Union, Japan and Canada in seeking to halve emissions by 2050.

But Annie Petsonk, a lawyer for the advocacy group Environmental Defense, said the summit hadn't agreed on a 50 percent cut _ only on a call for all major emitters to seriously consider that option.

"Importantly, they have agreed to negotiate a new agreement under the UN Framework Convention _ bound by the obligation to avert dangerous climate change," she said. "But it may be that the president is simply kicking the can down the road to the next administration to get the job done."

Petsonk said the key to getting an agreement in these new talks will be for the United States to impose a mandatory national cap on its own greenhouse gas emissions, without which other nations would be reluctant to join along. "All eyes are on Congress now. If America wants to lead, it's clear that Congress will have to do it," she said.

. . .

The document endorses the U.N. framework for climate change talks, a key demand from Merkel. But it did not commit to Merkel's target under which global temperatures would be allowed to increase by no more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) before being brought back down.

Experts say the 50 percent emissions reduction is needed to meet that goal.

Bush has opposed mandatory cuts and maintains that developing nations such as China, India and Brazil must be included. He also says economic growth cannot be sacrificed for progress on climate change, and stresses cleaner technology and biofuels as ways to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, which generate the greenhouse gases believed to cause global warming.

Climate talks will begin within the U.N. framework with a meeting of environment ministers at a U.N. climate change conference in Bali, Indonesia, in December.

The conference will seek to come up with a successor to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which commits industrial countries to cut emissions by 5 percent below 1990 levels. The U.S. signed the treaty but did not ratify it because it did not apply to developing countries such as China and India.

Read it all.

I think the analysis of David Roberts at Gristmill is right on target--the Europeans largely caved in to the Bush position:

So after some intense lobbying, this is how far the U.S. was willing to move: it agreed to "seriously consider" the other developed countries' target of 50% cuts by 2050. Having said unambiguously that it will not accept any hard targets, what reason is there to think the answer will change after serious consideration? It also agreed that climate negotiations should continue under UN auspices (strange world where this is a concession).

In exchange, the Euro leaders dropped their demands for hard targets, endorsed Bush's toothless aspirational talks, and declared a "huge success." This is obviously making the best of a bad situation, returning to their expectant publics with something rather than nothing. But make no mistake: other than a vague acknowledgment of the problem and the need to cut some emissions, at some point, somehow, the U.S. basically gave the rest of the world the finger yet again.

Read it all.

Here is the full G8 Declaration (PDF).

One final thought. Since the effect is to push the hard decisions into the future, this decision by the G8 could increase the importance of the issue of Climate Change issue in the next election. The Council on Foreign Relations has a very handy guide on how the Presidential candidates stand on Climate Change.

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