G8 and Climate Change

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  • by Anup Shah
  • This Page Last Updated Saturday, July 02, 2005

What has third world debt got to do with climate change?

If third world debt has been a serious problem and threat for the poor countries (where the vast majority of the world’s population live), then climate change has an even bigger impact.

Gains from development could be lost due to the immense problems climate change will bring.

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Leaked drafts show G8 leaders not doing much about climate change

Leaked drafts on the current stage of negotiations regarding the position of the G8 countries in the build-up to the Summit show that people are justified to be immensely concerned:

BBC’s Newsnight program which aired on Thursday 16th June revealed a number of important issues concerning a 2nd leak on the climate change text for the G8 Heads of State to sign up to at the end of July, when they meet.

The text, a journalist reported, “has been watered down” and there is so little in there in terms of substantial actions because there has been “such strong US influence on the text, that the industrialized nations may even be going backwards from any kind of international concensus on climate change.”

The first draft at the end of May itself was criticized for it omitted targets and timetables on cutting CO2 emmissions. The second, by comparison, is even “leaner and meaner,” with the differences being really stark:

  1. There is no new money whatsoever for addressing climate change
  2. The first draft had a few things (though no figures) mentioned, such as:
    • new energy projects
    • incentives to get other countries on board through tax breaks for example
    • encouraging innovation through rewards

Now, all that is gone.

The G8 countries appear not to even be agreed on the science because of “very heavy, heavy exertion by the Americans.”

Inter Press Service also reported on this, and is quoted at length:

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.

...

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.”

Sanjay Suri, Further Retreat from Tackling Climate Change, Inter Press Service, June 16, 2005 (Emphasis Added)

The Observer newspaper in the UK also revealed more explicitly that it was the United States moving to spoil the climate accord in the run-up to the meetings:

Extraordinary efforts by the White House to scupper Britain’s attempts to tackle global warming have been revealed in leaked US government documents obtained by The Observer.

… The documents [part of the Bush administration’s submission to the 2005 G8 action plan for the Gleneagles G8 Summit] obtained by The Observer represent an attempt by the Bush administration to undermine completely the science of climate change and show that the US position has hardened during the G8 negotiations. They also reveal that the White House has withdrawn from a crucial United Nations commitment to stabilise greenhouse gas emissions.

The documents show that Washington officials:

  • Removed all reference to the fact that climate change is a “serious threat to human health and to ecosystems”;
  • Deleted any suggestion that global warming has already started;
  • Expunged any suggestion that human activity was to blame for climate change.

Among the sentences removed was the following: “Unless urgent action is taken, there will be a growing risk of adverse effects on economic development, human health and the natural environment, and of irreversible long-term changes to our climate and oceans.”

Another section erased by the White House adds: “Our world is warming. Climate change is a serious threat that has the potential to affect every part of the globe. And we know that … mankind’s activities are contributing to this warming. This is an issue we must address urgently.”

Earlier this month, the senior science academies of the G8 nations, including the US National Academy of Science, issued a statement saying that evidence of climate change was clear enough to compel their leaders to take action…. It is now clear that this advice has been completely ignored by Bush and his advisers.

Mark Townsend, New US move to spoil climate accord, Observer, June 19, 2005

So, not only is there contention but the rich nations do not see it as their responsibility to show leadership, yet (representing a minority percentage of the world’s population) they have historically (and currently) emitted most of the greenhouse gases that have caused the rapid climate change.

Instead of seeing linkages between these two issues, the BBC journalist also noted that the G8 governments seem to want to create trade-offs between the Africa/debt issue and climate change; that you can have one or the other, or make sacrifices in one for advances in the other.

Quite frankly, the silliness in this is in how little the amount of money required actually is. It is not lack of money to get this done, it is political will and geopolitics. At the same time, this risks lives and perhaps the future of the planet.

A concern with the orginal Kyoto negotions was that the Kyoto Protocol was watered down to get the US on board, who then pulled out anyway, leaving the rest of the rich countries trying to reach weak targets (and still failing). Concerns raised by some environmental groups for the G8 Summit (as noted by the Guardian is that any new agreements might get watered down in order to get US buy in. Which is worse, that, or a deal that would then need to by-pass the US?

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Author and Page Information

  • by Anup Shah
  • Created: Sunday, June 19, 2005
  • Last Updated: Saturday, July 02, 2005

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Document Revision History

DateReason
July 2, 2005Also added a small note on climate change negotiation concerns.

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