G8 press US on climate change, but make no firm commitments

Leaders at the G8 summit in Genoa are reported to have put pressure on US President George W Bush, and have announced that they welcome Russia’s proposal for a global climate change conference in 2003, but make no firm commitments.

At last week’s G8 Summit in Genoa, Italy, 20-22 July, the leaders of the world’s foremost industrial nations stressed their determination to find global solutions to the threats endangering the planet. “We recognise that climate change is a pressing issue that requires a global solution,” they said in a communiqué at the end of the meeting. The G8 announced that they are committed to providing strong leadership on the matter, providing prompt, effective and sustainable action consistent with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) objective of stabilising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.

“We are determined to meet our national commitments and our obligations under the Convention through a variety of flexible means, drawing on the power of markets and technology,” said the G8 communiqué. “In this context, we agree on the importance of intensifying co-operation on climate-related science and research. We shall promote co-operation between our countries and developing countries on technology transfer and capacity building.”

However, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétein is reported to have pointed out that although the US had agreed to produce an alternative plan for tackling climate change by early autumn this year, following the country’s departure from the Kyoto Protocol (see related story), he did not believe that they would be able to do so by then.

The G8 Renewable Energy Task Force, established at the G8 summit in Japan, in July last year, in order to identify the main barriers to the use of renewable sources of energy (see related story), presented its report at the meeting, saying that the G8 countries will have to work together to expand their domestic renewable energy markets in order to drive down costs for other nations.

“The expansion of the renewable energy market in developed countries is essential to the development of commercial renewable energy in developing markets,” Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, Co-Chair of the Task Force, and former Chairman of the Committee of Managing Directors of the Royal Dutch Shell Group, said before the meeting. “Many developed countries already have plans to derive a percentage of their energy from renewable sources. Implementation of these would lead to a significant reduction in costs as industry competed to meet demand in the most economical way.”

Dr Corrado Clini, Director General of the Italian Ministry of Environment, and the second Co-Chair of the Task Force, pointed out that there are problems which have to be overcome before renewable energy can be truly accessible. “We believe that our recommendations could help pave the way to overcoming these hurdles,” he said.

The report also states that:

  • priority has to be given to strengthening policies, markets, research and development, training and institutional capacity building, paying attention to sustainable support in developing countries;
  • innovative financial systems are required in order to achieve the necessary mobilisation of funds and loans for renewable energy in developing countries;
  • the need for mainstreaming sustainable energy in all relevant areas of development co-operation is critical; and that
  • G8 countries should support the development of mechanisms such as emissions trading, joint implementation and the Clean Development Mechanism, that are conducive to the support of renewable energy projects.

In reply, the G8 said that they recognised the importance of renewable energy, and pledged to ensure that renewable energy sources are adequately considered in their national plans, and would encourage other countries to do the same. “Renewable energy can contribute to poverty reduction,” the G8 said. “We will help developing countries strengthen institutional capacity and market-orientated national strategies that can attract private sector investment in renewable energy and other clean technologies.” They also called on multilateral development banks and national development assistance agencies to develop financing strategies for renewable energy.

The G8 also confirmed that they are still committed to ensuring that export credit agencies (ECAs) adhere to high environmental standards in developing countries, and that a final agreement will be made with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) at the end of the year.

With regards to the future, the delegates welcomed Russia’s proposal to convene a global climate change conference in 2003 in which governments, business, science and civil society would participate, and also announced that they are looking forward to the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg next year, ten years on from the Rio Earth Summit (see related story).

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