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Europe and U.S. Reach Climate Deal

Mark Lanlder and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, NY Times
HEILIGENDAMM, Germany – The United States agreed today to “seriously consider” a European proposal to combat global warming by halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, breaking a trans-Atlantic deadlock at a meeting here of the world’s richest industrial nations.

The compromise, hammered out in tough negotiations between the United States and Germany, also endorses President Bush’s recent proposal to gather together the world’s largest emitting countries, including China and India, to set a series of national goals for reducing emissions.

The agreement does not include a mandatory 50 percent reduction in emissions, a key provision sought by Chancellor Angela Merkel. Nevertheless, Mrs. Merkel, the host of the meeting, proclaimed it a “huge success.”

After days of discord between Europe and the United States, which had threatened to veto any reference to concrete reductions, the deal amounted to a face-saving compromise for Mrs. Merkel. It also reaffirmed that climate negotiations should take place under the auspices of the United Nations – something else sought by Mrs. Merkel.

Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has also prodded Mr. Bush to embrace a stricter climate policy, said it represented “a very substantial coming together” of the world’s leaders over how to tackle climate change.

Environmental campaigners, however, played down the agreement, saying it does not fundamentally alter the Bush administration’s refusal to accept binding targets for reducing emissions.
(7 June 2007)

Environmentalists: “not worth the paper it was written on”

Original: Environmentalists dismiss G8 climate deal
Mark Tran, Guardian
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.”
(7 June 2007)

Merkel-Bush quarrel concerns details not substance

Original: Climate Change Flap At The G8
Walden Bello, via Znet
The headlines in the lead-up to the Group of Eight (G8) meeting here in Rostock have focused on the dispute over the proposed declaration on climate change. German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants the rich countries to commit to limiting global warming to two degrees centigrade. This will involve cutting greenhouse gas emissions to 50% of their 1990 levels by 2050 and increasing energy efficiency by 50% by 2020. Merkel’s proposal drew predictable opposition from George W. Bush. However, to contain further damage to his battered image, Bush called for a conference of the biggest greenhouse gas polluters to deal with global warming. This has alarmed Merkel, who wants to keep the process securely within the United Nations.

It is tempting to compliment Merkel, as many have done. But anybody would look good beside Bush. In fact, given the immediate, extreme threat posed by global warming underlined by the most recent report of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Merkel’s proposal of a 50% reduction from1990 levels by 2050 figure is simply too little too late. As the German Green parliamentarian Barbel Hohn noted at a Berlin conference on Sunday, the rich countries should be talking about at least an 80% cutback.

A close look at a leaked draft of the G8 declaration reveals that the Merkel-Bush quarrel concerns details not substance. The guiding principle of the document’s approach to climate change is to “decouple economic growth from energy use.” In other words, economic growth remains central and sacrosanct, meaning that the G8 will not likely propose any cuts in consumption levels. For instance, instead of calling for a radical cutback in automobile use, the declaration accepts as given that the number of motor vehicles will double to 1.2 billion by 2020. It proposes to expand production and accelerate development of non-fossil fuel alternatives for future cars such as synthetic biofuels and carbon dioxide-free hydrogen.

The draft declaration cannot call for deeper cuts in greenhouse gas emissions because its authors realize that maintaining a growing “efficient and competitive economy” while radically reducing greenhouse gas emissions is not technologically feasible at this point. The solution: lower the targets and try to convince the public that this is simply being realistic.

…There is, interestingly, a section entitled “Responsibility for Raw Materials: Transparency and Sustainable Growth.” The G8, the document states, seek “to support resource rich countries in their efforts to further expand their resource potentials while promoting sustainable development, human rights, and good governance.” Why is the G8 suddenly concerned with “increased transparency” in the extractive sector when their corporations have so long opposed efforts to control their depredations in the developing world? The answer is transparent in their “call on our trading partners to refrain from restraints on trade and distortion of competition in contravention of WTO rules and to observe market economy principles.” China, which has been concluding scores of mineral extraction agreements in Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia, is undoubtedly the main target of this section. The document reflects the fear among many rich country governments and corporations that the Chinese might end up shutting them out of resource-rich areas.

…I usually don’t agree with the Times editorial page. But this time it is hard to dispute its conclusion: “Nobody expects much from this increasingly outmoded talking shop of the complacent rich.” I couldn’t have said it better.

Walden Bello is executive director of Focus on the Global South and professor of sociology at the University of the Philippines. He is currently in Rostock, Germany to observe the G8 meeting.
(7 June 2007)
George Monbiot warns in a similar vein: Don’t listen to what the rich world’s leaders say – look at what they do.

Bush outplays the other developed countries

Original: More on the G8 climate statement
David Roberts, Gristmill
All right, the more I read about this G8 climate agreement the more it becomes clear that the Bush administration completely outplayed the other developed countries on this. That, at least, they’re good at.

Blair, Merkel, and Sarkozy all went into the summit staking their credibility on forcing an agreement: mandatory emissions cuts based on a shared target. The U.S. said: f*ck you. They begged. They pleaded. The U.S. repeated: f*ck you.

Meanwhile, the U.S. made a canny counter-proposal: a series of new talks, including China and India, to stretch out 18 months and produce “aspirational goals.” Obviously it’s toothless, but it did offer European leaders the chance to save some face and claim victory. It had the desired effect of dividing them and diluting the pressure on Bush. Blair, who is desperately casting about for a legacy other than the Iraq War, was quick to declare Bush’s tepid offer a breakthrough. Meanwhile, Sarkozy, who’s the new kid on the block and knows that Bush needs him as much as he needs Bush, noted dryly that the U.S. needs “to make another effort.”

So after some intense lobbying, this is how far the U.S. was willing to move: it agreed to “seriously consider” the other developed countries’ target of 50% cuts by 2050. Having said unambiguously that it will not accept any hard targets, what reason is there to think the answer will change after serious consideration? It also agreed that climate negotiations should continue under UN auspices (strange world where this is a concession).

In exchange, the Euro leaders dropped their demands for hard targets, endorsed Bush’s toothless aspirational talks, and declared a “huge success.” This is obviously making the best of a bad situation, returning to their expectant publics with something rather than nothing. But make no mistake: other than a vague acknowledgment of the problem and the need to cut some emissions, at some point, somehow, the U.S. basically gave the rest of the world the finger yet again.
(7 June 2007)