Wednesday :: Jul 8, 2009

Good News, Bad News From G8 Climate Talks

by Turkana

The good news is that the G8 economic powers have agreed to an important target. As reported by the BBC:

Leaders of the G8 leading industrial countries have agreed to try to limit global warming to just 2C (3.6F) above pre-industrial levels by 2050.

And they agreed on the number that many have been touting as the necessary number:

It says developed nations should cut carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, with the rest of the world making a 50% reduction by the same date.

That second part will be a problem, as will be clear. But there's also this:

Analysts say there is no indication of how the targets, or costs, will be met.

Details. The target itself is critical, but the details...

And President Obama is looked to, as a possible difference maker:

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he was confident that other non-G8 countries would back the commitments when climate change was discussed on Thursday under the chairmanship of US President Barack Obama.

And that's where it will get tricky. Because non-G8 nations are balking. As the New York Times is reporting:

The world’s major industrial nations and newly emerging powers failed to agree Wednesday on specific cuts in heat-trapping gases by 2050, undercutting an effort to build a global consensus to fight climate change, according to people following the talks.

As President Obama arrived for three days of meetings, negotiators for the world’s 17 leading polluters dropped a proposal to cut global greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by midcentury, and emissions from the most advanced economies by 80 percent. But both the G-8 and the developing countries agreed to set a goal of stopping world temperatures from rising by more than 2 degrees Celsius from preindustrial levels.

It's that 50 percent number that seems to be the sticking point.

The failure to establish specific targets on climate change underscored the difficulty in bridging longstanding divisions between the most developed countries like the United States and developing nations like China and India. In the end, people close to the talks said, the emerging powers refused to agree to the specific emissions limits because they wanted industrial countries to commit to midterm goals in 2020, and to follow through on promises of financial and technological help.

“They’re saying, ‘We just don’t trust you guys,’ ” said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists, an advocacy group based in the United States. “It’s the same gridlock we had last year when Bush was president.”

Although the paradigmatic difference is that President Obama is trying to break the gridlock and move the world towards accepting the full package of emissions reductions, while Bush still wasn't accepting the basic science that proves the human role in creating global warming. Even so, this will not be easy. Although President Obama invited the leaders of China, India, Brazil, South Africa, Mexico and other developing economic powers for a parallel forum, China's President Hu Jintao had to leave, because he has an ethnic uprising to crush. The Times article says the breakdown in negotiations came because the emerging powers won't accept specific targets, want to establish mid-term goals for 2020, and want commitments from the developed powers on financial and technological aid. They do have a point, in that the developed powers became so developed largely through an industrialization that contributed so much to the current climate crisis; which is something critics of climate change treaties don't seem to understand: who are we to tell other nations not to develop along the same lines that created our wealth and power? Which is why that aid is so essential.

Meanwhile, U.S. officials are correctly pointing out that the 50 percent target agreement by the G8 powers themselves is, itself, a good step. And once again, it's worth noting the paradigmatic difference between the Obama Administration and its gruesome predecessor. Meyer, of the UCS, says the developed powers will have to come up with about $150 billion a year to help develop clean technologies, which would seem pocket change, compared to the trillions recently dumped without a second thought, to bail out international financial markets. This is at least as important, and as Al Gore long has been pointing out, the development of such technologies not only will help the climate crisis, it will, itself, inspire a new economic boom. We will see what President Obama can accomplish, once he arrives. It's most important that these meetings help lay the groundwork for the December conference on climate, in Copenhagen. Which also will require a bit of groundwork here, at home.

Turkana :: 12:31 PM :: Comments (34) :: Digg It!