Monday, June 18, 2007

G8 - success or disaster?

Although touted as a success by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, it's hard to see exactly where the success of last weeks G8 summit lies. I suppose it all depends on your hopes or fears, optimism or pessimism of outcome. Maybe for the German Chancellor and host so little was expected to be gained, that what little was achieved could be touted as a success. It all depends on whether you consider this a talking shop or a catalyst for definitive action. So, what exactly was the outcome? Er well...

G8 leaders agreed to pursue "substantial" reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, stopping short of Angela Merkel's attempts to secure concrete numerical commitments on emission reductions, including her key aim to cut gases by 50 percent by 2050. Only 6 of the countries agreed to negotiate a new global climate pact that would extend and broaden the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012. Russia and the US did not sign up to the non-legally binding pledge by Germany, France, Italy, the UK, Canada and Japan.

As a compromise, however, all eight nations agreed to make substantial - but undefined - emissions cuts. The eight countries also agreed to launch negotiations on climate change under the United Nations umbrella starting in December 2007 to be wrapped up by 2009.

And that's about the sum of it. Not exactly a sense of leaders rising to the challenge to respond to what Al Gore calls a "planetary emergency" by the G8 - who represent 13 percent of the world's population and 43 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.

Here's what Al Gore had to say on the agreement:

"It was a disgrace disguised as an achievement," Gore said at an event in Milan, where he praised Merkel for her efforts. Leaders at last week's G8 summit in Germany had not risen to the challenge. "The eight most powerful nations gathered and were unable to do anything except to say 'We had good conversations and we agreed that we will have more conversations, and we will even have conversations about the possibility of doing something in the future on a voluntary basis perhaps.'"

No hard targets. No real substance. A missed opportunity. But Bush clearly swallowed something painful, even if it wasn't a commitment to define US emission cuts - he ended up with stomach ache anyway.

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