The G8 meeting in L’Aquila: a missed opportunity

Logo-G8-meeting-l'aquila-italyA few months before the Copenhagen meeting which will decide of the future of the Kyoto Protocol, the countries who met in Italy this week missed another opportunity to agree on climate change mitigation.

After Hokkaido in July 2008, this G8 meeting was another failure of our elected representatives to seriously act on the defining cause of our time. The Kindergarten squabble continues.

From rich nations to poorer ones, none of them decided to show some real leadership that would set an example for the others.

Here is the AFP article:

The complex dance towards a new pact on climate change took two steps forward, one step sideways and one step back in two days of summits here.Acknowledging a clamour for action, countries that account for 80 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions on Thursday enshrined a goal of limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

But they failed to spell out how they would achieve this vision, nor did they break a deadlock on how to help poor countries meet the climate challenge.

UN chief Ban Ki-Moon was among those who rued a lost chance ahead of a UN conference in Copenhagen in December that aims to shrink climate change from mortal peril to manageable problem.

“The outcomes are not sufficient,” he declared.

Scientists have pounded out an ever-louder drumbeat of warning about man-made gases that are trapping solar heat in Earth’s atmosphere, changing the delicate climate system.

Already, snow cover is thinning, permafrost is retreating and glaciers are melting. Water stress, flood, violent storms and rising sea levels will be a bane by the end of this century, dooming millions to hunger, disease and homelessness, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says.

Harkening to these words, leaders of the “Major Economies Forum” (MEF) — the Group of Eight (G8) and emerging giants such as China, India, Brazil and Indonesia — pledged to peg warming to 2 C (2.6 F) above pre-industrial levels.

“We recognise the scientific view that the increase in global average temperature ought not to exceed 2 C,” the MEF said in a statement.

The 2 C goal is politically important, as it places the United States in lockstep with the European Union (EU) and other countries that have adopted this target.

Endorsement also marks the next step of US President Barack Obama’s repudiation of his predecessor George W. Bush stance on climate change, with plans to cap domestic US emissions and place the United States back at the centre of the global talks.

On Wednesday, hopes rose for Copenhagen when the G8 set the goal of reducing global emissions by at least 50 percent by 2050 and declared developed countries would shoulder most of the burden.

Rich nations would curb their emissions by 80 percent compared with the levels of 1990 “or more recent years.”

Developing countries would have to make “quantifiable” actions to ensure that their emissions would deviate from an expected surge as their economies grow. But at Thursday’s meeting in the MEF, such figures were replaced by fudge.

Leaders vowed “to identify a global goal for substantially reducing global emissions” by 2050, but did not say how these cuts would be made, or who would make them.

French climate expert Jean Jouzel lashed the “huge hypocrisy” of setting the 2 C target without cementing in specific emissions pledges. “It’s a purely political undertaking, which is worthless,” he said.

Just as glaring was the lack of progress — both in the G8 and the MEF — on two issues that have bedevilled the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) talks for the past two years.

These are setting a mid-term target for emissions cuts by 2020, and on providing financial aid for poorer countries. Kim Carstensen of WWF said these failures were “a sign of mistrust” among developing countries.

Rich economies are being pressed to cut their own emissions by 25-40 percent by 2020 compared with 1990 levels and help poorer nations cope with the impacts of climate change. Without this commitment, developing countries are unlikely to sign up to detailed emissions pledges of their own, said Carstensen.

“I understand the reluctance of countries like China or India as long as they don’t obtain clarity on (the) mid-term (emissions) target,” acknowledged UNFCCC chief Yvo de Boer.

Ban said the G8 had blown a chance to end the deadlock. “G8 leaders had a unique opportunity that may not come again,” he said in a statement.

Obama said G8 leaders have asked their climate ministers to take up the finance question and report back in time for a Group of 20 summit, to be held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on September 24 and 25.

Let’s just hope that this meeting will bring some real change, leadership and pledge to action. Developped countries can cut their emissions drastically by 2020.

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