Leaders of the world’s eight major industrial nations have agreed to take immediate steps to curb global warming as part of this week’s Group of Eight summit, though they will not set concrete heat-trapping gas reductions or specify how much money they will spend.
The leaders’ joint statement, which was obtained by The Washington Post and will be released today, represents a qualified political victory for the White House. Bush officials resisted calls from allies to adopt a more ambitious framework for addressing climate change; foreign leaders managed to include a limited endorsement of mandatory carbon – emissions cuts and language linking global warming to human activity.
The two-page document, a drastically slimmed-down version of earlier G-8 drafts, states that although some uncertainties about climate change remain, “we know enough to act now and to put ourselves on a path to slow, and, as science justifies, stop and then reverse the growth of greenhouse gases.”
It also suggests that “human activities contribute in large part to increases in greenhouse gases associated with the warming of our earth surface,” and says all the countries that have pledged to bring greenhouse gases down to 1990 levels by 2012 as part of the Kyoto Protocol “welcome its entry into force and will work to make it a success.”
Every G-8 member except for the United States — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia — has ratified the Kyoto Protocol.
U.S. officials managed to excise swaths of text that called for “ambitious” greenhouse gas reductions and committed G-8 countries to spending a specific amount on environmentally friendly projects. They managed to eliminate the opening sentence, “Our world is warming,” as well as lengthy descriptions of how melting glaciers and rising sea levels reflect recent climate change.
Faryar Shirzad, President Bush’s deputy national security adviser and lead G-8 climate negotiator, told reporters yesterday that he was pleased with the talks’ progress.
Although he did not comment in detail on the final joint statement, he said the summit had allowed participants “to find the common ground and one that reflects a series of goals that the president has long advocated, which is to look at the issue of climate as a part of a broader set of interrelated issues of economic development, energy security, dealing with the problems of pollution, and then through that also dealing with the issues of climate change.”
American environmentalists criticized the final statement yesterday as inadequate.
Philip E. Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust, called the agreement “utterly meaningless, the weakest statement on climate change ever made by the G-8. The G-8 leaders did not agree on a single concrete action to address climate change. Not one new dollar was committed by any country to develop technologies — they just told the World Bank to go do it with no new financing.”
Other activists took a more sanguine view, saying the text emphasized the urgent threat climate change poses and affirmed the need to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions.
“The G-8 has clearly rejected the failed U.S. policy of voluntary programs to address global warming,” said David Hawkins, who directs the climate change center at the advocacy group Natural Resources Defense Council.
Opponents of mandatory carbon reductions such as William O’Keefe, chief executive of the conservative George C. Marshall Institute, hailed the communique as evidence that other countries are edging closer to the administration’s view of climate change.
“Reality is setting in, we are where we are,” said O’Keefe, whose think tank is funded in part by oil companies that object to carbon limits. “But we do know there’s a long-term risk, and nations need to cooperate in addressing it. The solution will be technology, not through energy starvation.”
This article by Juliet Eilperin appeared in The Washington Post, July 8, 2005, p. A19.