The G8, Environment and Climate Change

Hemantha Withanage Executive Director, Centre for Environmental Justice

Climate Change and Food crisis were two major items that dominated the G8 summit 2008 just ended in Hokkaido, Japan. However, the agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions globally by 50 percent by 2050,

which was among the major decisions, is perhaps a reverse from the minimum action that was demanded by the global community during the United Nations Summit on Climate Change in Bali last December.

In the Bali Climate Conference, opposition from the US, Japan, and Canada almost killed a developing consensus that should commit industrialized countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25-40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020. It was also projected the minimum cut needed by 2050 to be in the range of 80 to 90 percent, if the rise in global temperature was to be kept below 2 degrees centigrade in the 21st century.

The G8 emission cut has no clear baseline. According to Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda it was from 1990 levels. However, subsequently he mentioned that it is based on year 2000 baseline. Furthermore this declaration of intent is not binding.

Even though the G8 countries, responsible for half of the GHG emissions, the G8 recipe suggests a global cut, not one undertaken by the industrialized countries alone. This gives opportunity for the big polluters, like the US, to reduce only a little and pressure other countries to reduce emissions. As indicated by the Bush administration they would block any plan to tie G8 countries to commitments on emission targets without a global deal. However, within hours China and India and other emerging economies refused to endorse the targets, arguing that richer nations should carry more of the burden.

G8’s endorsement of the World Bank’s Climate Investment Funds seems to be another wrong push. According to the G8 communiqué certain countries had already pledged $6 billion. The said fund does not have a clear definition of clean technology. Therefore it will lead the funds may be used to finance projects that do not clearly mitigate climate change or may take up resources that bring only incremental change when we need a fundamental change. Many developing countries see the World Bank mechanism as a threat to serious efforts to assist the global South to deal with climate change.

According to the Civil society statement, “Challenge to the G8 Governments” since the signing of the Climate Convention in 1992, and even after instituting “environmental policies,” the World Bank approved more than 133 financial packages for oil, coal and gas extraction projects, comprising mainly loans but also including equity investments, guarantees and some grants. The total amount exceeds US$28 billion dollars. Fossil fuel corporations based in G8 countries benefit from almost every project finance package. The International Finance Corporation of the World Bank is increasing its fossil fuel lending portfolio. The Asian Development Bank, of which Japan and the United States are the biggest shareholders, is a major lender to coal, oil and gas projects in Asia, approving close to US$2 billion worth of loans since the year 2000.

The said G8 statement undermines the already established Adaptation Fund under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Bali by the Conference of Parties in December 2007 to provide technological assistance to developing countries. It is unfortunate that instead of funding this mechanism, the G8 countries will divert their contributions to the World Bank Climate Investment Funds to maintain control of the process of technology transfer.

According to the G8 Action Network, “after failing as a development bank, the World Bank is now trying to create the image that it is the “climate bank.” With the 2 billion already spent on coal, oil and gas projects over the last year, the World Bank has broken its own record as the world’s largest multilateral financier of greenhouse-emitting energy initiatives.”

While the G8 agreed to the importance of clean energy it promotes nuclear power as one of the solutions. Considering the risk of Nuclear power it is not a clean source. Meanwhile it proves business for certain G8 countries.

The G8 statement on Forest sector is a positive approach. It says “we will make all possible efforts by ensuring close coordination among various fora and initiatives with a view to promoting effective forest law enforcement and governance and sustainable forest management worldwide.” They also plan to combat wildfires which largely contribute to the global warming. However, G8 countries do not own much Forest resources.

Under the 3R( Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) initiative by endorsing the Kobe 3R Action Plan G8 “supports the international circulation of reusable and recyclable materials and resources in an environmentally sound manner consistent with the Basel Convention.” However, this might promote the electronic waste circulation from the developed countries to the developing countries.

The G8 climate solution undermines the global process and become an obstacle for the agreed processes. Global warming is a result of overconsumption by several rich nations. There is no other solution other than reduction of the emission of GHG by reducing consumption. However self appointed G8, led by United States is a greater obstacle for such a process.

G8 calls Multilateral Development Banks to support the adaptation efforts of the least developing countries and small island countries that are most vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change. Perhaps while the endless global debate on climate change continues, adaptation is the only available option for the vulnerable communities.

July 2008, Colombo

Article No 24

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