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July 10th, 2008:

Weakly Worded Climate Deal

Green Groups Unimpressed By Weakly Worded Climate Deal

Reuters in Toyako – Updated on Jul 10, 2008

Group of Eight leaders and their counterparts from developing nations patched together a deal to fight climate change yesterday, but the weakly worded deal served only to underscore the divisions between the two blocs.

There were other signs of the gap in a speech by President Hu Jintao , who said rich countries had to do more to remove barriers to farm trade, blaming such restrictions for the global food crisis.

“All countries, the developed countries in particular, should display greater sincerity in the Doha agricultural negotiations, remove trade barriers, demonstrate flexibility over such issues as the reduction of agricultural subsidies, give full consideration to the special concerns of developing members, and deliver duty-free and quota-free market access for the least developed countries,” Mr Hu said.

Farm trade is one of the most controversial issues in the World Trade Organisation’s Doha round of market-opening talks. But climate change was the most contentious topic at the G8 summit, which also tackled the crisis in Zimbabwe, worsening security in Afghanistan, and soaring food and oil prices and poverty in Africa.

“There’s been no huge breakthrough at this particular meeting, it is one step along the road,” said Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who attended a climate change meeting yesterday at which the G8 leaders were joined by eight more big polluters.

The 16-member Major Economies Meeting group agreed that “deep cuts” in greenhouse gas emissions were needed to combat the global warming that is closely linked to rising food and fuel prices.

But bickering between rich and poorer countries kept most emerging economies from signing on to a goal of at least halving global emissions by 2050. Nor did the group come up with specific numbers for the interim targets they agreed advanced countries should set.

The leaders of Japan, Britain, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Russia and the United States had embraced the 2050 goal a day earlier, but stressed their countries could not do it alone.

The rich countries had to paper over deep gaps just to get their own climate change deal, with Europe and Japan urging bolder action while the US opposed promising firm targets without assurances big emerging economies will act too.

Environmentalists saw nothing to cheer in the agreement.

“It’s the stalemate we’ve had for a while,” said Kim Carstensen of the WWF conservation group. “Given the lack of willingness to move forward, particularly by the US, it hasn’t been possible to break that.”

G8 Pumps Out Misplaced Concern About Oil Price

Jake van der Kamp – Updated on Jul 10, 2008 – SCMP

G8 nations … said yesterday they would work towards a target of at least halving global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 …

In another statement released on the second day of the summit, the leaders expressed strong concern about … oil prices.

Post, July 9

And blah-blah-blah-ba-ba-ba-blah-blah-blah-blaaaaaah-blaaaaah-blah-blah-blaaah-blah-blah-blaaaaaaaaaah …

I could carry this on right to the end of the column to acquaint you fully with the sum total of the real achievements of the Group of Eight summit but the boss would say I was a lazy cheater and dock my paycheque for it.

It’s blah-blah because there is only one thing that can cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent. This one thing is guaranteed to do the job and it is also beginning to make itself felt at last.

Our greenhouse gas emissions cutter will hugely stimulate the use of alternative energy sources. It will turn wind power, geothermal power and solar power into world’s biggest growth industries with enormous research budgets.

It will also induce consumers everywhere to adopt strict energy conservation measures. It will force them to turn off their lights every time they leave a room, make them turn up the standard room temperature in every air conditioned interior space they use and put sports utility vehicles into museums along with Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Below you can see a chart of how this miracle worker solution to pollution has exerted itself so far against a scale of emissions reduction in which the blue line represents the 50 per cent reduction mark.

Our miracle worker has not done much to help emissions reduction over most of the last 20 years but recently it has begun to assert itself quite strongly. It is now almost halfway to that 50 per cent goal established by the G8 and is likely to hit it many years before 2050.

This miracle worker, in case you hadn’t already recognised it, is a restatement of the price of oil in which the 50 per cent mark on the chart represents a price of US$300 a barrel.

Now, I could be wrong about that US$300 a barrel. It could be a lower price that gets us a 50 per cent reduction in emissions and it could be higher but it is probably somewhere around that level.

At US$300 a barrel for oil you will not be driving or riding in an SUV, you won’t turn your air conditioner down to 20 degrees, you will be using only fluorescent lights and you probably will have solar panels installed on the roof.

You will be doing all these things without any directive or any word at all from any leader of the G8. In fact, if it were left to G8 leaders to hit the target then that target would be as unblemished as an archery bulls-eye in an old folks home.

In the absence of a high oil price, I would like to see the day that an American president risks his re-election chances by telling the voters that they may no longer drive gas guzzlers.

I would like to see a Canadian prime minister pass a law that residents of Montreal may heat only two rooms per home in winter and must wear sweaters in the office. It would be an even better show if it were tried through tax targeting. That would result in a more spectacular fight than boxing any day.

Yet these are exactly the choices that the same voters will make with oil at US$300 a barrel. In fact, the only way they can be induced to make these choices is through a high oil price, with prices of other fossil fuels rising in tandem, as they are certain to do.

There is no other way. No elected political leader will ever do it through tax or other measures inflicted on people who have a vote in whether that leader remains a leader. And if the G8 countries won’t do it, then there is not the slightest chance that China and India, the world’s fastest growing energy consumers, will do it.

But will these G8 leaders recognise that a high oil price will do everything they want done without them having to blow out another puff of hot air over the microphones?

No, they will not. In their second day communique they expressed strong concern about oil prices.

They will now go home and grant oil exploration credits, wilderness oil drilling concessions, fuel cost relief measures and extra-budgetary military payments to maintain armed forces in the Middle East. In other words, they will do everything that they can do to suppress the miracle working emissions cutter.

And that’s why I say that G8 emissions reduction talk is just blah-blah-blah-ba-ba-ba-blah-blah-blah-blaaaaaah-blaaaaah-blah-blah-blaaah-blah-blah-blaaaaaaaaaah …

Climate Change Clock Is Ticking

Five to eight: the climate change clock is ticking

Updated on Jul 10, 2008 – SCMP

The world faces pressing problems, climate change, rising oil and food prices and poverty among them. As urgent as finding solutions to them may be, it is only through consensus that governments can act. We should not be surprised that a meeting of the leaders of the world’s richest nations and their counterparts from big developing nations ended yesterday with pacts that did not go far enough, failed to face up to challenges or can only be believed when pledges are forthcoming.

This is disappointing for those who thought that bringing together the nations most capable of making a change would give answers. Realists know better; national interests go before all else, no matter how big the problem. The summit highlighted another difficulty: the gap between the developed and the developing world.

This was most evident on the biggest talking point at the Group of Eight meeting, global warming. The G8 – Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the US – agreed to work with the rest of the world to reduced emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases by at least half by 2050. China led their counterparts in arguing that it was the industrialised countries that should take the lead in meeting targets and providing the expertise and technology to help their less developed partners because it was they who had caused the problem.

China’s position is reasonable. The European Union has accepted it, but the US will not. Until a formula is reached that objectively determines responsibility, action on climate change will be disjointed. In the meantime, China is taking the need for sustainable development seriously; as President Hu Jintao told the summit yesterday, the government had implemented measures to cut emissions of pollutants, save energy and increase forest cover.

Surging oil and food prices are threatening the world’s poorest people, but the G8 leaders did nothing other than acknowledge the economic impact. They pledged to meet a target made at their 2005 summit of increasing annual aid to Africa by US$50 billion by 2010. Concern was expressed about the war in Afghanistan and sanctions agreed to against Zimbabwe’s leaders. We should expect more, but the circumstances of such gatherings militate against concerted action. Their achievements will be limited as long as papering over differences in the name of consensus-building is the order of the day. Strong leadership is necessary and, for now, that is absent.

The emergence of the Group of Five – China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa – may change that. These rapidly rising economies could well force the G8 to be more decisive. It can only be hoped that this is the case.

A Marshall Plan For Climate Change

Alex Lo – Updated on Jul 10, 2008 – SCMP

During the Group of Eight summit in Hokkaido, Japan, this week, US President George W. Bush warned that no global climate treaty would work without the participation of China and India. He is absolutely right. This is especially the case with the mainland, which by some measures has exceeded the US as the No1 greenhouse gas-emitting nation in the world. But Mr Bush neglects to state that the US, as the world’s most polluting country in history, must make the same commitment.

The problem is how to encourage the two emerging powers to join any post-Kyoto Protocol treaty now being negotiated by more than 190 nations, with 18 months to deadline. India and China have effectively ruled out cutting emissions in any meaningful way before they become fully industrialised. Fuel efficiency and alternative energy sources seem to be completely foreign concepts to their auto industries and car users.

The degree of resistance can be gauged by the angry reactions in India a few months ago when Mr Bush remarked, innocently but accurately, that the rising demand of India’s middle class for better and more nutritious food is pushing up prices. In this, Chinese are also guilty, as are Americans.

Fingers can always be pointed at the US, which has just 5 per cent of the world’s population but consumes a quarter of its energy. Moreover, most of the greenhouse gases causing dangerous climate change in the atmosphere today have been created by the advanced economies when they were industrialising. So, a senior Brazilian minister has likened the situation to emerging economies being invited to dessert after the rich countries have already had their full lunch but are being asked to split the whole bill. This is surely unfair; and unless it is equitably addressed, there is no way to convince developing countries to join the effort.

Speaking at about the same time as Mr Bush, however, Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda outlined a solution. The rich nations should offer cash and technology to help emerging economies leapfrog to energy-efficient industrialised status. This would be an unprecedented commitment by the west and Japan, but would also serve historical justice. Japan has the experience in developing the technology since the oil shocks of the 1970s. The US and other G8 nations have the money.

Something on the order of a Marshall Plan to halt climate change is needed. It is a welcome development that the US has overcome its longtime reluctance and joined other G8 nations to back halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Now, it is in China’s own interest to join any post-Kyoto deal. Far more immediate than global warming, the mainland faces a looming environmental catastrophe. At the moment, its environmental degradation and pollution costs the economy between 8 and 12 per cent of its GDP each year. The country has 16 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities. Millions are dying from pollution. China’s environmental threats can undermine its economic miracle, public health system, social stability and international reputation, according to Elizabeth Economy, an authority on the subject and author of The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenges to China’s Future.

Since 1978, China has shown its ability to adapt and change in the face of new crises. Its decision to join the World Trade Organisation stemmed partly from its need to open up and impose market discipline on its moribund financial and banking sectors.

The same or similar rationale applies to joining a post-Kyoto treaty. The central government already realises that years of unchecked growth is posing too high a cost on the nation and many of its people. By committing to a climate-treaty discipline, and with subsidies and technology transfer from the rich countries, it is in everyone’s interest to see China – and India – make this leap. Alas, the political will to commit to this approach is sadly lacking in the west and east.

Alex Lo is a senior writer at the Post