, April 28, 2009 (ENS) - Climate change needs to be addressed urgently and the willingness to reach an ambitious agreement on a post-2012 regime in Copenhagen emerged from the Group of Eight Environment Ministers Meeting that concluded Friday on the island of Sicily.
At the annual UN climate conference, held this year in Copenhagen, governments are expected to finalize an agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions that will pick up where the Kyoto Protocol leaves off at the end of 2012.
"We have reached important results that will assist in the debate on environmental issues during a particularly important year for choices on climate change and biodiversity, in order to get to the UN conference in Copenhagen in December," said Italian Environment Minister Stefania Prestigiacomo, who chaired the meeting.
Italian Environment Minister Stefania Prestigiacomo chairs the G8 environment ministers meeting. (Photo courtesy G8)
"There is a need to significantly advance negotiations," she said in the Chair's Summary document. "In such respect it is important that, on one hand, developed countries clarify their own position in terms of mid and long term commitments as well as financial support for mitigation and adaptation in developing countries; on the other hand, developing countries clarify their contribution to the global mitigation efforts. To this end it is important to increase mutual confidence, being proactive in order to avoid to remain locked in waiting others’ first move."
The meeting was attended by environment ministers and senior officials from the G8 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and the European Commission, as well as environment ministers and senior officials from Australia, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa, South Korea, the Czech Republic as current President of the European Union, Sweden as next President of the European Union and Denmark as President and host of the UN Conference on Climate Change.
Discussions of low carbon technologies were joined by representatives of 23 large energy and manufacturing corporations, including Areva, BMW, BP, Dysol, Edison, First Solar, Gazprom, General Electric, Lukoil, Mitsubishi, Shell, Tata, Trillium Wind Power, and Westinghouse.
A consultation with nongovernmental organizations and civil society groups preceded the discussion. WWF International, Birdlife International, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD, Business and Industry Advisory Committee to the OECD, Global Coalition Against Poverty, WWF Italia, Legambiente, Oxfam/Ucodep, Campaign for the Reform of the World Bank, Action Aid Italia, End Water Poverty Italia, and three Italian trade unions took part in the exchange of views.
During climate discussions, some ministers emphasized the need to limit the average increase in global temperature to below 2°C to avert the worst consequences of climate change.
The discussion also highlighted that all countries are designing strategies and implementing measures for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The strategies described include quantitative emissions reductions targets, intensity targets, the establishment of cap and trade systems, the application of carbon pricing, actions to reduce deforestation, and the participation in public-private partnerships.
It is evident that a "silver bullet" to address climate change does not exist, said Prestigiacomo in the Chair's Summary, and although much has already been done, several ministers emphasized that further mitigation efforts are needed.
U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, left, is congratulated after her speech by Italian Environment Minister Stefania Prestigiacomo. (Photo courtesy G8)
On Friday, Lisa Jackson, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, delivered a keynote address on children’s environmental health, which is back on the G8 agenda this year. Under Canada's leadership, the G8 last addressed children's environmental health in 2002.
As the mother of two young boys, Jackson said she has both a personal and a professional stake in protecting the health of children from "clouds of pollution, climate change and other environmental degradation."
She encouraged her fellow environment ministers to, "Collaborate on research ... eliminate lead exposure, create sensible chemicals policies, reduce exposure to smoke from cookstoves, and highlight the importance of clean water and sanitation."
"The U.S. government, under this new administration, will keep faith with the promise we've made to future generations," Jackson said.
Environment ministers have been involved in the G8 process since 1992, but the topic of biodiversity was only introduced in 2007, with the launch of the Potsdam Initiative during the German G8 Presidency.
In 2008 the Japanese G8 Presidency ensured, through its Kobe Call for Action, that biodiversity remained high on the political agenda.
The Syracuse G8 meeting used this foundation to prepare the ground for the UN International Year of Biodiversity in 2010 and for defining the framework for the post-2010 biodiversity target.
Today, a separate high-level conference called by the European Commission acknowledged that the goal of halting biodiversity loss across Europe by 2010 could not be met.
Participants at the G8 meeting stressed that biodiversity and ecosystem services represent the basis for human life and wellbeing and that immediate measures to cope with the present trend of biodiversity loss are required.
The Syracuse Charter the ministers agreed on Friday holds that biodiversity and ecosystem services are essential for life on Earth, the wellbeing of humanity and the achievement of all the Millennium Development Goals. The eight time-bound and measurable goals to be reached by 2015 include one that would ensure environmental sustainability and slow the loss of biodiversity.
The Charter underlines the relation between biodiversity and climate, focusing on the role of ecosystems for mitigation and adaptation to climate change.
The environment ministers agreed that biodiversity and ecosystems are of great economic value and can make an important contribution to the resolution of the current global economic and financial crisis.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature, IUCN, supports the environment ministers' conclusions.
"We are delighted that the G8 has taken such a strong stance on biodiversity conservation and climate change, despite the current financial crisis," said IUCN Director General Julia Marton-Lefevre. "It remains to be seen how these topics will be included in the G8 Heads of State Summit in July. IUCN will continue to work closely with its members and the Italian G8 Presidency to ensure that this happens."
The Syracuse Charter includes a strong paragraph on the importance of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, REDD, and combating illegal logging, noted Marton-Lefevre.
With the Syracuse Charter in hand, Prestigiacomo traveled to Washington to participate in the two-day Major Economies Forum at the U.S. State Department that concluded today.
"I will bring the rich debate that took place in Syracuse and the results of our meeting, she said, "with the contributions on the development of technologies and financing methods that emerged from the World Bank and the International Energy Agency."
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2009. All rights reserved.
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