G8 Retreat on Climate Change

LONDON – A new leaked document on the current stage of negotiations on the G8 position on climate change shows a further retreat from consensus on many fronts.

This is the second time a draft agreement has been leaked from talks of the Group of Eight of the world’s leading industrialized nations (Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United States, plus Russia). The earlier draft leaked last month itself showed agreements of only a weak and general nature.

In the new draft, the very first line is contentious. The opening words “Our world is warming” have been placed in parentheses, indicating there is no consensus on that portion of the text. Here the draft has been clearly prepared by the British government, and the dispute is believed to arise from U.S. objections.

The first paragraph includes the following also placed in parentheses: “The statement issued by the science academies in June 2005 said that there is now ‘strong evidence that significant global warming is occurring’ and that ‘this warming has already led to changes in the Earth’s climate’. We know that the increase is due in part to human activity.”

The brackets around the above text indicate that there is no consensus among the G8 countries that any significant climate change is taking place that may be linked to human activity.

“The new text also does not mention anything about how much money is to be spent,” Catherine Pearce from Friends of the Earth told IPS. “The earlier text had acknowledged that money will have to be spent on certain developments, with the amount marked as ‘x’. But there is no reference to money in here.”

Particularly worrying in the next text is a reference to “zero-carbon” nuclear power, Pearce said. “And there are no targets, no timetables, no new commitments.”

The leaked document entitled ‘Gleneagles Plan of Action’, dated Jun. 14, is indicative of extensive disputes over climate change. Barely three weeks before the G8 summit, environmentalists see little hope of a substantive new agreement.

“Any suggestion that G8′s visit to Scotland would produce anything meaningful on tackling climate change is rapidly evaporating,” Friends of the Earth Scotland’s chief executive Duncan McLaren, said in a statement. “The first draft of this document was bad, this update is even worse. G8 countries represent just 13 percent of the world’s population, but account for 45 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.”

There seems to be no dispute around general statements such as an agreement to “act with resolve and urgency now to meet our shared and multiple objectives of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving the global environment, enhancing energy security and cutting air pollution in conjunction with our vigorous efforts to reduce poverty.’

But then the parentheses indicating a lack of agreement appears around the following: “The world’s developed countries have a responsibility to show leadership.”

Nor is there agreement on the following in the draft text: “While there will always be some uncertainty, inertia in the climate system means we cannot afford to postpone action if we are to manage the risk of major irreversible change.”

Friends of the Earth’s demands for the G8 include:

Agreement on the compelling scientific evidence showing that climate change is already happening and that urgent action is now required to substantially reduce emissions.

An agreement by G8 nations for specific, substantial and timetabled cuts in their domestic emissions of greenhouse gases.

Nations must take radical action at home in order to reduce the impacts of climate change, including a change in consumption patterns and a meaningful switch to the use of renewable sustainable energy sources.

G8 nations must stop promoting fossil fuel extraction in developing nations through international financial institutions such as the World Bank and export credit agencies.

G8 governments should immediately phase in public finance for sustainable clean energy. Friends of the Earth declined to comment on the source of the document. But government officials acknowledged that the leaked draft was genuine, though not final.

(c) 2005 Copyright IPS – Inter Press Service

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