On emissions, G-8 looks past Bush
Its support for halving emissions by 2050 is seen as useful for future negotiations.
In Toyako, Japan, leaders of seven of the eight largest industrial nations issued a polite sayonara to President Bush this week and a message to the rest of the world: We’re likely to take a stronger, more specific joint stance on dealing with climate change next year, when a new US administration willing to take more-concerted action on the issue is in Washington.Skip to next paragraph
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That’s the assessment of several analysts parsing the climate provisions that the Group of Eight leaders unveiled Tuesday at their annual meeting. In the end, the group’s communiqué may be more important as a signal or restatement of negotiation positions within United Nations climate talks, rather than a significant blueprint for action on its own.
The group agreed “to consider and adopt ... at least a 50 percent reduction” of global greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050 via UN-sponsored talks. That put the outgoing Bush administration on record as supporting a target in more than an aspirational way. For now, however, those cuts would be measured against today’s emission levels, rather than the 1990 emission levels under the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and its 1997 Kyoto Protocol.
The G-8 provisions lack specific interim commitments that the European Union has sought – and that developing countries say would represent the good-faith signal they need to join an international emissions-control effort.
“The G-8 is more useful as a benchmark of the stances that are going to be taken in other processes by some of its members,” says Robert Bradley, who heads the World Resources Institute’s international climate policy initiative in Washington. “The huge caveat is that its largest member will be changing commander in chief between now and the next meeting. People will be looking for early signs from an incoming administration that the US is changing course.”
Among the summit leaders, the communiqué represents a “new, shared vision” by the leading industrial economies in support of a new UN climate agreement. Negotiators hope to have it ready for approval at global climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark, scheduled for the end of November 2009. In a statement at the G-8 meeting, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso called the climate provisions a “strong signal to the world” that industrial countries are serious about dealing with climate change.