Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The G-8 and Climate Change
The G-8 summit in Scotland was overshadowed by the London bombings and dominated by aid for Africa. Climate change, intended by its British hosts to be a major focus, got shorter shrift. However, this relatively upbeat report from the Economist highlights some encouraging news from the meeting. Whatever the geopolitical pressure on America, or the scorn heaped on George W. Bush, the position of the US on the Kyoto Treaty is now largely moot. It's getting very late to have much impact on US emissions in the 2008-12 timeframe included in the treaty, and the attention must begin to shift to the post-2012 world, and to what needs to be a much more ambitious and comprehensive global approach on climate change, if it is to matter.

The EU has certainly embarked on serious measures to reduce the emissions of its member states, in line with their targets under Kyoto, but even if they succeed, their efforts cannot compensate for the growth in emissions in three countries: the US, China and India. Nor can any successor to Kyoto, addressing the post-2012 period, be successful without including them. A Kyoto II agreeable only to the EU and the smaller countries is unimaginable for two reasons. It would be practically irrelevant to halting the increase in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations, as the EU's share of global energy usage and GDP shrinks, and it will be unacceptable to EU members, for reasons of economic competitiveness, real or perceived.

So if the recent G-8 has set the stage for new climate change talks engaging all parties on a basis that they are willing to discuss, its work in this area could be looked back on as being of greater significance than its well-intended efforts concerning Africa.

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