Monday, July 13, 2009

"Breakthrough" & "Missed Opportunity" Of Climate Meetings

Jul 10: According to releases from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), the organization sees both "breakthrough" and "missed opportunity" in the recent climate change meetings of the G8 and the Major Economies Forum (MEF) on Energy and Climate held last week in L’Aquila, Italy. UCS saw a breakthrough in the July 9, MEF meeting and "missed opportunity" in the G8 summit [See WIMS 7/9/09]. In a press statement summing up the international meetings, even President Obama acknowledged that, "We did not reach agreement on every issue and we still have much work ahead on climate change. . ."

UCS noted that while the G8 leaders recognized the important benchmarks of holding global temperature increases below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) limiting their own emissions 80 percent by 2050, ". . .the failure to make any progress towards resolving the deep split among the G8 countries on the emissions cuts needed by 2020 is troubling. . . This lack of progress on 2020 targets and on financing led China, India, and other developing countries to refuse to agree to the goal of reducing global emissions 50 percent by 2050 in the MEF declaration. . . In short, the G8 summit represents a tremendous missed opportunity. With just five months to go, the heat is on the G8 leaders to inject political momentum into the climate negotiations. The limited progress made here in L'Aquila is nowhere near what's needed to get an ambitious and equitable climate deal in Copenhagen."

Regarding the MEF meeting, UCS said the leaders of the 20 largest world economies offered hope that at least one of the longstanding sticking points may be seriously addressed in the next few months. UCS indicated, "Financial and technology support to developing countries to limit their emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change is one of the most critical issues in the climate negotiations. The G-20 summit in September is the last time before Copenhagen that all of these leaders will be in one place together. If the initiative announced today by President Obama results in serious action on these issues by leaders at the G-20 meeting, it could be a real game-changer. The need for more ambitious near-term emissions reductions by industrialized countries, as well as the need for additional actions by major developing countries to constrain their emissions must also be addressed to get a strong climate agreement this December in Copenhagen. But today's announcement gives us hope that with sufficient political will, such an agreement is not out of reach."

Specifically, the MEF declaration said in part, "There is a particular and immediate need to assist the poorest and most vulnerable to adapt to such effects. . . Further support will need to be mobilized, should be based on need, and will include resources additional to existing financial assistance. We will work together to develop, disseminate, and transfer, as appropriate, technologies that advance adaptation efforts. . . Financial resources for mitigation and adaptation will need to be scaled up urgently and substantially and should involve mobilizing resources to support developing countries. . . An arrangement to match diverse funding needs and resources should be created, and utilize where appropriate, public and private expertise. We agreed to further consider proposals for the establishment of international funding arrangements, including the proposal by Mexico for a Green Fund."

However, as WIMS discussed previously, the language included with the G8 and MEF declarations was extremely general and allusive [
See WIMS 7/9/09]. For example, while the developed countries agreed to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases in aggregate by 80% or more by 2050 the base year upon which to make the measured reduction is indicated as "1990 or more recent years." The G8 nations also say they will "undertake robust aggregate and individual mid-term reductions," but again remain unspecific regarding a baseline year from which to measure reductions and instead say "baselines may vary" but "efforts need to be comparable." Further, the G8 calls for "major emerging economies" to collectively reduce emissions "significantly below business-as-usual by a specified year."

The MEF statement is even more general in some regards saying the countries "recognize the scientific view" that global average temperature "ought not to exceed 2 degrees C," and they will work between now and Copenhagen, with each other and under the Convention, to identify a "global goal for substantially reducing global emissions by 2050."

In his statement following the MEF meeting President Obama outlined the difficulties ahead. He said, "We've made a good start. But I am the first one to acknowledge that progress on this issue will not be easy. And I think that one of the things we're going to have to do is fight the temptation towards cynicism, to feel that the problem is so immense that somehow we cannot make significant strides. It is no small task for 17 leaders to bridge their differences on an issue like climate change. We each have our national priorities and politics to contend with, and any steps we agree to here are intended to support and not replace the main U.N. negotiations with more than 190 countries.

"It's even more difficult in the context of a global recession, which I think adds to the fears that somehow addressing this issue will contradict the possibilities of robust global economic growth. But ultimately, we have a choice. We can either shape our future, or we can let events shape it for us. We can fall back on the stale debates and old divisions, or we can decide to move forward and meet this challenge together. I think it's clear from our progress today which path is preferable and which path we have chosen. We know that the problems we face are made by human beings. That means it's within our capacity to solve them. The question is whether we will have the will to do so, whether we'll summon the courage and exercise the leadership to chart a new course. That's the responsibility of our generation, that must be our legacy for generations to come, and I am looking forward to being a strong partner in this effort."

Access two release from UCS (click here); and (click here). Access the MEF July 9 Declaration (click here). Access the detailed 40-page G8 document (click here). Access the President MEF statement (click here). Access a White House fact sheet on the MEF meeting (click here). Access further information from the State Department MEF website (click here).