G8 Climate Plan of Action Delivers Little Change

AUCHTERARDER, Scotland, July 8, 2005 (ENS) - The G8 leaders have signed a climate change agreement without measurable targets and timetables for reducing heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions.

At the close of the G8 Summit at Gleneagles today, the heads of government of the world's eight wealthiest nations agreed that "climate change is happening now, that human activity is contributing to it, and that it could affect every part of the globe." But they decided on dialogue, technological development and marketing rather than emissions limits to address the problem.

"We know that, globally, emissions must slow, peak and then decline, moving us towards a low-carbon economy. This will require leadership from the developed world," the G8 leaders state.

"We resolved to take urgent action to meet the challenges we face," they declare. "The Gleneagles Plan of Action which we have agreed demonstrates our commitment. We will take measures to develop markets for clean energy technologies, to increase their availability in developing countries, and to help vulnerable communities adapt to the impact of climate change."

But the Gleneagles Plan of Action disappointed environmentalists who had hoped for an immediate emission reduction program to avoid catastrophic climate change. The campaign group Friends of the Earth blamed the United States for the lack of progress, saying the Gleneagles document offered nothing new, with no commitment to firm action agreed.


British Prime Minister Tony Blair outlines the G8 decisions at the close of this year's summit. (Photo by Anita Maric courtesy G8)
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who hosted the gathering, said, "We speak in the shadow of terrorism. But it will not obscure what we came here to achieve." Referring to the terrorist bomb blast in London Thursday that claimed at least 50 lives, Blair said, "There is no hope in terrorism, nor any future in it worth living. And it is hope that is the alternative to hatred."

"We came here to acknowledge our duty to be responsible stewards of the global environment," said Blair.

"We do not hide the disagreements of the past but we have agreed a process, with a plan of action, that will initiate a new Dialogue between the G8 and the emerging economies of the world to slow down and then, in time, to reverse the rise in harmful greenhouse gas emissions," said Blair. "The Dialogue will begin on 1 November with a meeting here in Britain."

To further their Plan the G8 leaders have asked the World Bank to create a new framework for mobilizing investment in clean energy and development. World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz said, "A first high-level meeting on this is scheduled to be hosted in Britain on November 1st by Prime Minister Blair and the World Bank Group.

These arrangements were not strong enough to reassure environmentalists. Friends of the Earth International Vice Chair Tony Juniper said, "Despite the growing evidence of human induced climate change and the dangers of its impacts becoming more widely known and understood, the outcomes of this summit leave us very little further ahead. While the leaders carry on talking, the world continues warming."

The G8 leaders "warmly welcomed" the involvement of the leaders of the emerging economy nations of Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa, who they said contributed "ideas for new approaches to international co-operation on clean energy technologies between the developed and developing world."

"Our discussions mark the beginning of a new Dialogue between the G8 nations and other countries with significant energy needs, consistent with the aims and principles of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. This will explore how best to exchange technology, reduce emissions, and meet our energy needs in a sustainable way, as we implement and build on the Plan of Action," the G8 said in the Chair's Summary document.

But developing countries already facing the impacts of climate change were offered no direct financial assistance or support.

The statement issued Thursday by Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa mentions the threat of climate change to their countries, but the G8 Plan only mentions providing further access to information and developing scientific capacity.

"We will advance the global effort to tackle climate change at the UN Climate Change Conference in Montreal later this year. Those of us who have ratified the Kyoto Protocol remain committed to it, and will continue to work to make it a success," the G8 leaders declared.

All the G8 countries have ratified the Kyoto Protocol with the exception of the United States.


U.S. President George W. Bush departs the Gleneagles Hotel after the conclusion of the G8 summit. (Photo by Richard Lewis courtesy G8)
U.S. President George W. Bush framed the global warming issue as the challenge of providing energy to the two billion people who need modern energy services.

"Providing affordable, reliable and secure energy is essential to end extreme poverty and build a better and cleaner world," the U.S. State Department said in a statement. "Stagnant economies are one of the world's greatest environmental threats. Improved access to cleaner and more secure energy resources will also reduce the growth of greenhouse gas emissions associated with long-term climate change."

The G8's Gleneagles Plan of Action will, "Power a cleaner future by promoting the use of nuclear power, clean coal technologies, clean diesel and methane, renewable energy, bioenergy, and more efficient power grids and strengthen research and development of hydrogen-powered vehicles that emit only water, not fumes," the U.S. said.

The Plan will, "Finance the transition to cleaner energy through a strengthened World Bank and national policies that support markets, remove barriers to direct investment, leverage private capital, and promote investment."

It will, "Manage the impact of climate change through strong funding of climate change science, improved scientific and monitoring capabilities of poorer regions such as Africa, and full implementation of the 10-year plan developing the Global Earth Observation System of Systems."

And recognizing the connection between land use and climate change, the Plan will, "Combat illegal logging by working with poor countries struggling to enforce their own forest management laws to prevent harm to ecosystems and land use changes that are a factor in climate change."


The G8 leaders line up today for a final photograph. (left to right) President George Bush, USA, President Jacques Chirac, France, Prime Minister Tony Blair, UK, President Vladimir Putin, Russia, and Chancellor Gerhard Schroder, Germany. (Photo by Richard Lewis courtesy G8)
As the Gleneagles document was signed, the global conservation organization WWF issued a new report that models climate change impacts in the Mediterranean region if the world's average temperature rises by two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

According to WWF, if climate change is not curbed, "the region could expect searing temperatures with up to six weeks more of extreme heat days - defined as plus 35 C - per year." The increased number of hotter days would translate into a higher fire risk, with implications for the safety of tourists visiting the region.

"The southern part of the Mediterranean would be at risk of forest fires practically all year round," WWF said, "and nearly everywhere else in the region the risk of fire would be expected to extend by up to six weeks."

Scientists with the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said Thursday that the rate of sea level rise has nearly doubled in the past 12 years.

"Roughly half of that is attributed to the expansion of ocean water as it has increased in temperature, with the rest coming from other sources," said Dr. Steve Nerem, associate professor with the Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research at the University of Colorado-Boulder.

For the first time, NASA scientists have the tools and expertise to understand the rate at which sea level is changing, some of the mechanisms that drive those changes and the effects that sea level change may have worldwide.

"We've found the largest likely factor for sea level rise is changes in the amount of ice that covers the earth. Three-fourths of the planet's freshwater is stored in glaciers and ice sheets or the equivalent of about 220 feet of sea level," said Dr. Eric Rignot, principal scientist for the Radar Science and Engineering Section at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

"Ice cover is shrinking much faster than we thought, with over half of recent sea level rise due to the melting of ice from Greenland, West Antarctica's Amundsen Sea and mountain glaciers," he said.