What does the G8 joint statement tell us about how our representatives plan to tackle climate change? The joint statement is here.
These are some of the things it says: (my emphases)
“We have agreed on a policy agenda to promote a smooth adjustment of global imbalances which should take place in the context of sustained robust global economic growth. We have taken stock of the progress made to date and discussed further challenges lying ahead. Our agenda builds on discussions at the IMF and other international fora. Open markets and competition are crucial elements, as are our efforts to promote freedom of investment and the dynamics of innovation described hereafter.”
Almost the first point in the statement. In one sense, obvious; a strong economy supports more effective investment and action, (hence a truism). Alternatively, a message that says ‘we’ll promote adjustments so long as they don’t threaten this.’ At least, an indicator of the criteria under which decisions will be evaluated; it will always be economic. (not really a surprise, but important to have in the background of discussions).
“Oil producing countries have increased investment in oil production capacity”
– So, in the shorter term, we’re expecting to increase our oil production and use – great.
“Humanity today faces the key interlinked challenges of avoiding dangerous climate change and ensuring secure and stable supplies of energy. Since we met in Gleneagles, science has more clearly demonstrated that climate change is a long term challenge that has the potential to seriously damage our natural environment and the global economy. We firmly agree that resolute and concerted international action is urgently needed in order to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and increase energy security. Tackling climate change is a shared responsibility of all, and can and must be undertaken in a way that supports growth in developing, emerging and industrialised economies, while avoiding economic distortions.”
Grist covered this yesterday, as have others. The G8 agrees that action is urgently needed. Wow! That was big of them. But note that the two go together, in both parts of this sentence and in other parts of the report; reduce emissions and increase energy security. Later on, the logic of this becomes apparent; ‘we’re going to keep energy price inflation down (don’t ask how) but demand greater efficiency in production and use. Given that producers already want to increase their efficiency (to increase profitability), this boils down to ‘make end-user usage more efficient’. Oh, good. What does this suggest to us?
“We confirm our determination to work among ourselves and with the global community on global solutions that address climate change while supporting growth and economic development.”
Here’s the underlying metric once again; this one actually frightens me. What it appears to be saying is that only solutions which support economic growth/development will be accepted as solutions to CC. Alternatively; ‘if it costs us anything, we won’t do it’.
“We acknowledge that the UN climate process is the appropriate forum for negotiating future global action on climate change. We are committed to moving forward in that forum and call on all parties to actively and constructively participate in the UN Climate Change Conference in Indonesia in December 2007 with a view to achieving a comprehensive post 2012-agreement (post Kyoto-agreement) that should include all major emitters.”
Straightforward, this one: nothing is going to change before 2012. The Bali conference is for sorting out a post-Kyoto agreement.
“To address the urgent challenge of climate change, it is vital that major economies that use the most energy and generate the majority of greenhouse gas emissions agree on a detailed contribution for a new global framework by the end of 2008 which would contribute to a global agreement under the UNFCCC by 2009.”
Ouch! this is almost painful: ‘we’ll agree to contribute to a framework which will contribute to an agreement by 2009’. Oh, well; maybe there’ll be something to blog about before 2012 after all. Whilst the above was poor, the next has left me scratching my head:
“The global potential for saving energy is huge. According to the International Energy Agency, successfully implemented energy efficiency policies could contribute to 80% of avoided greenhouse gases while substantially increasing security of supply.”
WTF are ‘avoided greenhouse gases’? Anyone have any idea? Regardless it still gives a clue as to what sort of policies we can expect; pressure on the end-user to ‘do better’. Same old same old, then.
Looking at the statement as a whole, what does it tell us about the strategies we can expect to combat climate change? Here they are: market mechanisms, technology, reducing deforestation, improving energy efficiency. And the statement also expressly states that the ‘best mechanism’ for achieving these goals is the private sector. So; ‘we’ll encourage investors to spend money to achieve these objectives’. Definitely NOT; ‘we’ll spend taxpayers’ money to do something about this’.
As the conference is overtly about energy efficiency, it then goes on to break this down. All of the ‘key’ areas, buildings, transport, power generation and industry, are expected to ‘do better’ in terms of emissions. Again, the responsibility for action is transferred to business. What almost beggars belief is that the G8 actually states that ‘improving consumer information’ (sic) is considered to be a significant mechanism. This as much as anything reveals the actual lack of any real thought or imagination amongst our leaders and their advisers about what will actually make a meaningful difference to emissions cuts.
So what do we end up with? To me, this reads as a statement that, for the time being, everything is going to continue as before. That the majority of money to be spent on tackling CC will come from business and private investment. That cap-and-trade and reducing deforestation will, at some point, be joined by technological innovations (the statement makes a lot of innovations) to reduce emissions. In the meantime, more oil is to be available and stored, to restrain energy price inflation. That nothing will be done that costs anything, no redistribution will occur, if it damages the ‘strong’ or ‘stable’ economic base of ‘effective action’.
This is the message from the G8, then: ‘We are not going to do anything about reducing emissions apart from talk about it and encourage business to carry on doing what it has already started, and we won’t do anything which conflicts with the need to sustain economic stability. Oh; and we’ll seriously consider a 50% cut scenario by 2050, under the above conditions.’
Thanks, world leaders. The investment in time and money that the G8 represents has produced leadership stunningly devoid of content or common sense. You still don’t get it, do you? Doing nothing was never an option, but you have managed it, again. Passing the buck might be clever politics, but it is a useless strategy for dealing with the problems you have said are so important. Above all, you have clearly told us that, where there is any conflict between economic interests and the climate, the climate is going to come second.