Wrapping Up The G8 And MEF

13 July 2009

The dust has settled from the G8 meeting in Italy where politicians gathered to discuss the greatest challenge facing our civilisation. I was going to write ‘world leaders’ but ‘politicians’ is a more accurate term. Leadership implies vision and decisive action. All we got from the G8 was hot air.

We have 145 days to go until the Copenhagen meeting when Governments of the world will meet to thrash out the final detail of a global treaty to cut emissions. The stakes are high. Climate change is a global emergency and it requires a global response. The Kyoto Protocol largely failed to cut emissions or create the transition to a low carbon economy. Copenhagen will replace Kyoto and might be the last chance to get a global treaty in time to make a difference.

The G8 meeting, and the Major Economies Forum that followed, was a crucial milestone on the road to Copenhagen. And the news isn’t good. The G8 and the MEF waffled their way through various statements that avoided putting any hard numbers on the table and tried to dress up old news as progress.

As usual, rich (developed) countries are trying to blame less developed countries for the lack of progress. Everyone keeps on saying it is up to India and China to take action and put targets on the table. China is already starting to take steps to cut emissions but the reality is that the failure of leadership lies with the developed world who are largely responsible for causing climate change and who have the resources to drive the transformation.

Despite mountains of spin, Kevin Rudd and the Australian Government are still undermining progress towards a strong treaty at Copenhagen. By putting forward a pathetically low emissions reduction target (only 5-25% cuts by 2020), Australia is sending all of the wrong signals. But perhaps more insidious is the work of our negotiating team to push for offset loopholes that would mean that even our paltry emissions target can be offset either by changing land-use practices or paying other countries to protect forests. Meanwhile, our coal industry and industrial pollution continues to grow.

Kevin Rudd needs to commit to halve greenhouse pollution within the next decade, as well as putting substantial money on the table to help drive the transition to a low carbon economy in developing countries.

By the way he is going, “Kevin” is likely to become a dirty word.