Yup, Just as I Predicted…No G8 Leadership!

So, in my comments from yesterday (July 7) I “boldly” predicted that the G8 wouldn’t be much of a success on reducing global warming pollution. Well this year’s G8 statement on climate change has just been released and not surprising it lacks the kind of leadership from the major industrialized nations that is required in addressing global warming.  

Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk, the South African Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism in his statement on the agreement put the G8 agreement into perspective (the full statement is worth a read as it puts the whole agreement in context): 

While the Statement may appear as a movement forward, we are concerned that it may, in effect, be a regression from what is required to make a meaningful contribution to meeting the challenges of climate change.”

Now, I’ve spent a lot of time in the international climate negotiations reading the nuances of the text to see the real commitments that often lie beneath confusing text, but I must say I have a hard time finding anything earth-shatteringly new in this agreement—either from last year’s G8 or from the agreement reached in Bali. 

Let’s compare the key commitments from last year’s G8 and the Bali agreement with this year’s G8 statement to see the lack of leadership or progress:


Last year’s G8: “we will consider seriously…at least halving of global emissions by 2050”

This year G8:  “we seek to share with all Parties to the UNFCCC the vision of, and together with them to consider and adopt…the goal of achieving at least 50% reduction of global emissions by 2050… Making progress towards the shared vision, and a long-term global goal will require mid-term goals and national plans to achieve them.”

Now they aren’t seriously considering the long-term goal, but now consider and adopt.  Really bold statement!  Or as Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk put it: “As it is expressed in the G8 statement, the long-term goal is an empty slogan without substance.

At least they acknowledge that setting a long-term goal isn’t enough, but that you need to do something between now and 2050.  But, the language is so vague to be essentially meaningless.  And, with the developing countries putting forward a bolder proposal in a preparatory meeting in Seoul, as I discussed, it isn’t really a bold leadership commitment!   


It is worth reviewing this proposal as Minister van Schalwyk has now put it forward as the “ambitious package that South Africa is striving for” with three elements:

  • “Firstly, for the global community to seriously consider a long term goal for emission reduction of at least 50% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels, we believe the G8 industrialized countries should resolve to lead with reductions of between 80% and 95% below 1990 levels by mid-century;
  • Secondly, absolute emission reductions based on mid-term targets towards the upper end of the range of 25% to 40% below 1990 levels by 2020 for all developed countries…;
  • And finally, substantial deviations below business-as-usual baselines in some developing country regions by 2020 and in all regions by 2050.”


Bali Agreement:  “nationally appropriate mitigation commitments or actions…by all developed country Parties”

This year's G8:  “…each of us will implement ambitious economy-wide mid-term goals in order to achieve absolute emissions reductions and, where applicable, first stop the growth of emissions as soon as possible…”

So, now these developed countries committed to implement ambitious economy-wide mid-term targets…but at first they may only stop the growth of emissions?  Not exactly what the science is calling for on global warming pollution or what state, corporate, and Congressional leader’s are putting on the table in the US—only stopping the growth of emissions in the mid-term!

US Leadership 

While the clock ticks out on the Bush Administration’s reign, bold US leadership on climate change is sorely lacking and this year’s G8 statement is just one more example.  Or as Minister van Schalkwyk pointed out (without explicitly naming names, but I think we know who he is referring to): “it is regrettable that the lowest common denominator in the G8 determined the level of ambition in the G8 Declaration on climate change”.

With this missed opportunity to make real progress, we’ll have to wait for new leadership from the US.  And, as next year’s G8 will be just six months before world leaders have committed to reach a post-2012 international climate agreement (in Copenhagen), let’s hope that new US leadership will be more bold.   The Seoul offer from developing countries should be the starting point when the negotiations of the international agreement for the post-2012 begin in earnest in the next US Administration.


Andrew C. Revkin in Dot Earth has a great summary of the full agreement along with some commentary.


Also the full statement from the “Plus 5” (China, Brazil, Mexico, South Korea, South Africa, and India) is now available.