Saturday, June 09, 2007

The G8 statement on climate change

The G8's climate change declaration has been called "a major step forward" (Tony Blair), an "important step" (Stephen Harper), a "big success" (Angela Merkel), a "very substantial coming together" (Tony Blair, he's good with the quotes) and "a bold, audacious plan that will unite the world against the problem of climate change" (George Bush).

Ok, I made that last one up. It is rather sad that the US agreeing to seriously consider greenhouse gas reduction targets is a big success. That shows how low the bar has been set for international climate negotiations with the Bush Administration. Ever been told you will be seriously consider-ed for a job? Did you get the job?

You can read the text of the agreement yourself. The very first item on climate change (#40) contains this statement: "Tackling climate change is a shared responsibility of all". True. There are more like this (#53):

We therefore reiterate the need to engage major emitting economies on how best to address the challenge of climate change. We embrace efforts to work with these countries on long term strategies.

True again. But in policy-speak, these statements mean the US refuses to accept a hard emissions target unless China and India accept a similar target (something both countries have already rejected, and that would be unfair). The stalemate will continue unless the US Congress overwhelmingly passes legislation in the fall, and there's so much political pressure that President Bush does not use his veto power. The real battle for international climate policy could happen not (at the UN negotiations) in Indonesia this fall, but on the floor of the US House.

In the end, I suppose the G8 declaration is a step forward, in that at least the Bush Administration is not rejecting the science, and is recognizing that someone out there might want to do something about greenhouse gas emissions. If I were the leaders of the other G8 nations, I would not be too proud, however. It sure looks like they just got bullied one more time by the Bush Administration.

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