Clear The Air News Blog Rotating Header Image

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *