G8: No Action on Climate, Hope lies with EU Presidency

Leaders of the world's eight wealthiest nations appear to have bowed to US pressure and offered simply more talk and no action when it comes to tackling climate change.

The G8 communique, declared on Friday 8th June, acknowledged that global warming is a significant threat which required urgent action to tackle it, but offered absolutely no measurable targets or timetables for doing so.

Despite pledging to “act with resolve and urgency” to reach shared goals, and outlining a vague action plan on energy efficiency measures, the only definite item on the agenda is that G8 leaders, along with five of the world’s largest emerging economies – China, Brazil, India, Mexico and South Africa – will meet again on November 1st for further talks.

“This is a very disappointing finale,” Tony Juniper, Vice Chair of Friends of the Earth International said at the summit. “The G8 have delivered nothing new here and the text conveys no sense of the scale or urgency of the challenge. Bush appears to have effectively stalled all progress. The action plan, without any targets or timetables, will deliver very little to reduce emissions, or to roll out renewables to the scale required.”

Campaigners believe that the lack of any meaningful targets or timetables for emissions reduction, as called for in the Kyoto Protocol, was the result of lobbying by the US. President Bush has said in the past that Kyoto would “wreck” the US economy.

The communiqué, however, did include a statement affirming that the countries that have already ratified Kyoto would work to make it a success. There was also a strong statement from the G5 developing countries supporting Kyoto and stating that a real commitment to share sustainable energy technology with developing countries is essential.

Regardless of the criticisms, Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett welcomed the outcomes of the talks saying “a major step forward” had been made.

“We never expected to get agreement on Kyoto and that was not the objective of putting climate change on the agenda,” she said. “The UN process is the correct forum for discussing and agreeing the future of international climate change regime. But, what the G8 has done promotes practical action to reduce greenhouse gases across the world and represents a commitment from key countries to discuss new ways forward.”

Campaigners now have set their sights on the UK’s Presidency of the EU to deliver meaningful outcomes on climate change.

Guy Thompson, Director of Green Alliance, said: “We have to face down US intransigence and lead from the front. The UK Presidency of the EU should lay the ground for agreement at next year’s Spring Council of an ambitious second-phase of the EU’s climate change programme, including a high medium-term target and more stringent second phase of the emissions trading scheme. The EU must demonstrate that reducing carbon emissions does not harm economic growth.”

By David Hopkins

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