G8 Summit Extends Environmental Work Beyond Climate

HEILIGENDAMM, Germany, June 8, 2007 (ENS) - Environmental considerations at the G8 Summit hosted by Germany stretched far beyond the global warming compromise reached Thursday. When the Summit closed this evening, the G8 leaders announced support for integrating environmental standards into the extractive industries, and progress in controlling the proliferation of weapons and materials of mass destruction.

In meetings today, the G8 leaders also won agreement from emerging economies and developing countries to help combat and adapt to climate change.

"It was a successful summit," said host German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Leaders of the G8 pose with leaders of emerging economies and African outreach partners at the conclusion of the G8 Summit in Heiligendamm, Germany. (Photo by Eric Draper courtesy The White House)
The G8 leaders launched a dialogue between the member states of the the G8 group of countries and the important emerging economies of Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa now known as the Heiligendamm Process. The dialogue will address innovation, freedom of investment, development in Africa, and energy efficiency and provide reports at the next two G8 Summits.

This dialogue is necessary because neither the G8 countries nor the emerging economies can meet the challenges of the global economy alone, Merkel said. Joint solutions are to be developed that take each country's responsibilities into account.

Emerging Economies' Commit to Limiting Climate Change

In a meeting today, the leaders of the G8 and the five emerging economies agreed, "We face serious challenges in tackling climate change and achieving sustainable development globally."

Leaders of Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa said they are "committed to contribute our fair share to tackle climate change in order to stabilize green house gas concentrations at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system."

Calling for "a flexible, fair and effective global framework and concerted international action," the five leaders underlined "the crucial role of economic incentives, in particular by carbon markets, for the necessary investments in climate friendly technologies at large scale."

From left, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, European Commission President Jose Barroso and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the G8 (Photo courtesy REGIERUNGonline / Maro)
They asked that financial support for adaptation to climate change that should be included in a future agreement along with enhanced technology cooperation and financing.

They called on all parties "to actively and constructively participate in the negotiations on a comprehensive agreement" for the period after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. These negotiations will take place at the UNFCCC Conference in Indonesia in December.

And the emerging economies confirmed their commitment to promote energy efficiency, to advance the effective use of fossil fuels, such as the clean coal technology, and to increase the use of cleaner and renewable energy sources, such as biofuels and biomass.

The G8 leaders and the leaders of the emerging economies called on all parties "to actively and constructively participate in the UN Climate Change Conference in Indonesia in December 2007 with a view to achieving a comprehensive agreement for when the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012 that should include all major emitters.

Global Warming Agreement by G8 Leaders

The climate agreement, reached Thursday, comitted the eight industrialized countries to "seriously consider" halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, but did not state a numerical global target as desired by Chancellor Merkel.

G8 leaders share a laugh despite failure to agree on all issues. From left, Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, U.S. President George W. Bush, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. (Photo by Eric Draper courtesy The White House)
The European Union, Canada and Japan committed themselves to at least a halving of global emissions by 2050, but the United States and Russia did not agree.

All eight leaders did agree that combating climate change is "one of the major challenges for mankind and it has the potential to seriously damage our natural environment and the global economy."

They agreed that "urgent and concerted action is needed" and accepted their responsibility "to show leadership in tackling climate change."

"It is vital," they said, "that the major emitting countries agree on a detailed contribution for a new global framework by the end of 2008 which would contribute to a global agreement under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change by 2009.

"Technology, energy efficiency and market mechanisms, including emission trading systems or tax incentives, are key to mastering climate change as well as enhancing energy security," the G8 leaders agreed.

Any solutions, all agreed, must be based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities based on each nation's respective capabilities.

Environmentalists were critical of the compromise. The deal is "clearly not enough to prevent dangerous climate change" said Daniel Mittler, climate policy advisor of Greenpeace International at the summit. "Governments failed to commit to what science tells us is necessary here. They must now urgently do so at the United Nations."

Environmental Standards for Extractive Industries

The G8 leaders expressed their support for the integration of social and environmental standards into the mining and oil and gas industries, known as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, EITI.

The initiative, launched by British Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2002, aims to ensure oil, mineral and gas reserves are properly used to foster sustainable development and reduce poverty.

"We will support increased transparency and build good governance in developing countries with social and environmental standards," the G8 leaders said at Heiligendamm. "We therefore express our continuous support for the EITI and we will launch a certification pilot project."

Non-Proliferation of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction

Five years ago at the G8 Summit in Kananaskis, Canada, the G8 leaders announced the Global Partnership against the Proliferation of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, GP.

A five-year progress report filed as an official G8 document in Heiligendamm says the commitment to raise up to US$20 billion for this work by 2012 is on track, and will continue.

"Significant progress" has been made on tasks identified in Kananaskis, according to the report to the G8 leaders.

Facilities for the destruction of chemical weapons stocks have been built, and actual destruction has begun.

Initally in Russia, dismantling of decommissioned nuclear submarines and securing and removing the material from them has taken place and remediation of former naval bases in order to secure and remove spent nuclear fuels and radioactive waste is ongoing.

The safety and security of fissile nuclear materials and chemical weapon stocks has been improved, the report states.

And the G8 countries are Working with former weapons scientists and technicians to provide sustainable employment for them outside the weapons field.

In the future, GP partners will undertake fissile material/plutonium disposition and work on biosecurity and biosafety.

"The Russian Federation considers of primary importance for the implementation of the GP projects in Russia the dismantlement of decommissioned nuclear submarines and chemical weapons destruction," the report states.

Fourteen other donors outside the G8 have been accepted as participants in the GP mechanism and are now making their own contribution to this work. Ukraine has joined the GP as a new recipient country. And the GP process is open to the inclusion of more countries.

There is still "room for improving project implementation" within the GP framework, the report states, but the five year evaluation shows "it is possible to overcome the many bureaucratic obstacles to progress by sustaining good working-level relationships and a strong commitment to mutual cooperation and understanding, without compromising requirements for financial probity, safety standards or national security."

African Development

Sustainable development formed the basis for the G8's statement on Africa, which speaks of contributing to "sustainable growth by encouraging and mobilizing domestic and international entrepreneurship and investment."

In reporting the progress made in Africa towards achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals to eradicate poverty and achieve environmental sustainability, halfway to the deadline of 2015, "it is clear that stronger efforts are required by all actors," according to a Summary of G8 Africa Personal Representatives’ Joint Progress Report on the G8 Africa Partnership.

The G8 leaders called for more overseas development assistance and more "sustainable" private investment, and pledged to do more themselves.


The meeting room during G8 talks with African leaders today (Photo courtesy REGIERUNGonline / Bergmann)
"We will continue to work with other donors at fulfilling the Gleneagles commitment to double aid to Africa – an additional $25 billion as part of an OECD estimated global annual increase of $50 billion by 2010, the G8 leaders said, referring to their pledge at the G8 meeting at Gleneagles, UK in 2005.

In addition, the G8 leaders stressed the importance of working with developing countries on climate change issues and the implementation of adaptation strategies.

The G8 will support facilitating the access to water and sanitation as well as energy.

The G8 also need to assist in the transition to clean energy through support for the African components of the Clean Energy Investment Framework, and explore options to increase African participation in clean energy investment flows.

The G8 supports Africa in promoting sustainable, affordable and secure energy supply and energy use as well as cooperation towards sustainable management and biodiversity conservation.

Chancellor Merkel's message to the countries of Africa was, "We are aware of our responsibility and we will honor our commitments." The G8 needs to "fulfil the promises we made," she said.

Speaking on behalf of the African Union, AU Chairman Ghanaian President John Kufuor said that African countries are prepared to play their part in making the Outreach Process a "true partnership".

Kufuor proposed establishing a body which would be responsible for supporting and regularly reviewing the co-operation between the G8 and Africa.

Over the coming years the G8 will be making a total of US$60 billion available to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in Africa. This is to be used to safeguard universal access to comprehensive HIV/AIDS prevention programmes, treatment and care, and to develop health systems at the local level.

"A plan to really defeat AIDS, TB and malaria is still missing, yet that's what we must keep demanding of these leaders," said Dr. Paul Zeitz, executive director of the Global AIDS Alliance. "This is not an issue of 'more money is always needed when it comes to poverty.' Rather, the full amount is needed so that we can actually get ahead of these health crises, which pose a threat to everyone."

UN estimates show that $192 billion is needed to address AIDS, TB and malaria during from 2008 to 2012, mostly for HIV/AIDS, plus even more is needed to improve health systems.

"We will have to watch the G8 carefully to see they keep their promises," Zeitz said. "But even if they do keep them, the funding falls far short of what is needed."

Greenpeace Protesters Injured at Sea

Tens of thousands of people have been protesting, both at Heiligendamm and at an alternative summit in nearby Rostock, trying to get the message through to the G8 that the time to act is now.

As hundreds of G8 delegates arrived in the area on Wednesday, mass blockades interrupted their arrival at the fenced security zone.

Thousands of activists blocked most of the routes leading to the G8 meeting venue in Heiligendamm. Over 10,000 people blocked the fence gates and 'breached' the newly declared no-demonstration zone around the fence.

In the evening, police violently dispersed one of the blockades, while others continued with several thousand people still on the streets. Other activists protested in the streets surrounding the Rostock-Laage airport.

On Thursday, German police pre-emptively boarded the Greenpeace ship, the Arctic Sunrise, though Greenpeace says it was well outside the summit's exclusion zone.

Greenpeacers take an inflatable for a protest spin. (Photo by Alex Schmidt courtesy Greenpeace)
The police came aboard without a search warrant and confined the 24 crew before seizing Greenpeace equipment including engines from inflatables, making the boats unusable, and the hull of a Greenpeace hot air balloon.

This morning, 24 Greenpeace activists, using 11 speedboats took the message, "G8: Act Now!" to the waters around the beachfront summit hotel. They entered the outer restricted area at 11 am, informing the police as they did so. They came in from both east and west sides, entering into the inner restricted zone.

Police boats ran over some of the Greenpeace boats - injuring six activists and sending several to the hospital with severe bruises. The activists were trying to deliver a petition calling for clear commitments on climate change. At last report, the boats and 19 activists were in police custody.

Into the Future

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has offered to host the next G8 Summit in Hokkaido Toyako, Japan in July 2008, and his G8 counterparts have accepted his invitation.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.