Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Environmentalists dismiss G8 climate deal

Mark Tran
Thursday June 7, 2007
Guardian Unlimited

Environmental groups today dismissed a declaration from the world's leading industrial powers on climate change as not worth the paper it was written on.

Activists were particularly disappointed at the lack of targets in the surprise agreement at the G8 summit in Germany.

"George Bush's final gift to Blair falls short of what was needed to protect the climate. An agreement without targets is barely worth the paper it's written on," said the director of Greenpeace UK, John Sauven.

"This document acknowledges the seriousness of the situation then ducks reality by offering weasel words like 'seriously considering', as if this was an after dinner discussion rather than the most important issue facing the world."

In their declaration the G8 agreed to launch a comprehensive negotiation on climate change under UN auspices. It will start at the UN climate conference in Bali in December and negotiations will end by 2009. Until now, George Bush has resisted efforts, notably from Tony Blair, to bring the US into the UN process.

"In setting a global goal for emissions reductions in the process we have agreed today involving all major emitters, we will consider seriously the decisions made by the European Union, Canada and Japan which include at least a halving of global emissions by 2050," the G8 said in the declaration.

Collectively the G8 countries, which make up 13% of the world's population, are responsible for around 43% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, claimed victory in Europe's battle to secure a deal on climate change when she said that her fellow leaders had agreed to make "substantial" cuts in greenhouse gases.

But environmentalists were unimpressed.

"This puts us at the lowest end of what is needed to curb climate change," said George Gelber, head of policy at Cafod, the Catholic development agency. "They've not mentioned the key target of limiting the increase in average temperature to 2% and we believe - based on our interpretation of the science - that reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by the year 2050 is not enough."

Friends of the Earth also criticised today's G8 agreement as inadequate.

"We have already seen many empty promises by G8 leaders over the past years but there has not been much real action," said Yuri Onodera of Friends of the Earth, "so we urge G8 leaders to act now and cut their greenhouse gas emissions drastically and immediately."

Keith Allott, head of WWF-UK's climate change programme, praised Ms Merkel for pushing hard for as robust an agreement as possible, but said Mr Blair had made only limited headway with Mr Bush.

"Tony Blair has staked his legacy on securing a tough emissions reduction goal and encouraging George Bush back into the UN process. He has made progress only on the second point - and even here, the proof of the pudding will come later."

UK sources said the agreement was "better than expected" given the strong misgivings expressed by the US about the G8 setting specific targets for cuts in greenhouse gases.

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