G8 Countries Agree on Process To Address Global Warming

By Andrzej Zwaniecki
USINFO Staff Writer

Washington – Leaders of the Group of Eight (G8) countries have agreed on an accelerated process that eventually can lead to “substantial” cuts in emissions that contribute to global warming.

“We are … committed to taking strong and early action to tackle climate change,” they said in a June 7 declaration issued in Heiligendamm, Germany.

Calling climate change an “urgent challenge,” the leaders called on the countries that are heavy users of energy and emitters of greenhouse gases to establish by the end of 2008 a new global framework for dealing with emissions of these gases. Such a framework would serve as a basis for reaching, by the end of 2009, a broader global agreement under the auspices of the United Nations that would replace the Kyoto Protocol once it expires in 2012.

The Kyoto Protocol is an amendment to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. Countries that ratify this protocol commit to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases, or engage in emissions trading if they maintain or increase emissions of these gases. The United States has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol due to concerns it could constrain economic growth and will achieve little because it does not include countries in the developing world such as China and India that emit large quantities of greenhouse gases.

U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor David McCormick, briefing reporters June 7, said the G8 leaders for the first time reached an agreement on an “approach and process for moving forward.”  The G8 comprises Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and Russia.

“As you look through this text, you’re going to find an enormous step forward, in terms of our understanding and our agreement on a path ahead,” McCormick said.

U.S. National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley said that specific proposals on long-term emission goals by the European Union, Japan and Canada differ and need to be discussed further.

Nevertheless, he told reporters, President Bush endorsed the year of 2050 proposed by Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, for cutting greenhouse gases in half as an “aspirational goal.”

The declaration does not contain specific long-term emission goals because “all of the key ‘players’ are not at the table,” Hadley said, referring to large emerging market countries. Hadley said those countries worry that binding limits on emissions would hamper their growth.

Trying to alleviate this concern, the declaration recognized that climate change must be addressed as part of a broader agenda, which also should include energy security, economic growth and sustainable development.

“These all need to be addressed in a consistent way so that developing countries recognize that they don’t need to protect their environment at the expense of development, growth and bringing people out of poverty,” Hadley said.

The G8 leaders said they want to engage large energy consumers and greenhouse gas emitters in the developing world such as Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa on how best to address climate change. In a broader context, the leaders said they want stronger policy cooperation and coordination with such countries in the recognition of their growing impact on the global economy.

“Both the G8 countries and major emerging economies have the chance to define a new partnership responding to … world economic challenges,” according to the declaration.

The G8 leaders also cautioned against trade barriers and protectionism as a threat to prosperity and development and vowed to work to strengthen open markets. However, they acknowledged that globalization and technological progress have produced not only benefits and opportunities but also dislocations. To address those dislocations, they proposed to promote and develop further social standards, strengthen corporate governance and social responsibility and invest in social safety nets.

The full text of the summit declaration is available on a G8 Web site of the German government.