Kate Mackenzie The climate change guide to the G8

Hopes are not high for any strong resolutions on climate change at the G8 meeting beginning on Wednesday in L’Aquila, Italy – one of the more significant events held in the lead-up to the Copenhagen meeting in December. To be fair, some lofty goals will probably be announced this week: the eight western member countries plan to launch an ‘aspirational goal’ of a 50 per cent cut in carbon emissions by 2050, reports the WSJ. The BBC’s Roger Harrabin says the communique will also state that countries should seek to avoid a climate rise of more than 2°C – the level seen as critical by many scientists.

The 50 per cent reduction is a huge undertaking, but then 2050 is a nice, long way off into the future. The problem is the trajectory emissions take until then. They must peak a long time before that – most estimates put it at about 2020 – for a good chance of avoiding severe climate change.

US officials say they cannot commit to a more immediate time frame for big emissions reductions – it’s not politically feasible, as the subsidy-ridden, offset-reliant ‘mess’ of an energy bill passed by the House of Representatives demonstrates. The US is however delaying event that communique as it holds out for more commitments from emerging economies, Harrabin’s sources say (the ‘+5′ members – China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa – will also join in on Wednesday).

But what chance does the US have of extracting more commitments from those countries? China, India and Brazil have all argued that they should not bear disproportionate costs of reducing emissions when wealthier countries grew rich using fossil fuels with abundance. China in particular is taking a strong line, calling for 1 per cent of GDP to go to developing economies; and sharing of clean energy and efficiency technologies. Western countries balk at these demands, and the £60bn fund proposed by Gordon Brown probably won’t cut it, even if it does win support.

Potentially more relevant would be the meeting of the Major Economies Forum on Thursday, a larger group which includes Brazil, India and China and whose members account for about 80 per cent of carbon emissions. President Obama will chair the meeting, and a separate communique will be launched by this group, but again it does not look promising – Indian officials expect a ‘token’ commitment, the head of the IPCC does not hold out much hope. And this for a forum that seemed so promising at its formation in March, despite the Bush-era connotations.

Related links:

G8 leaders to set emissions goals (BBC, 06/07/09)
Climate declaration to get global boost
(WSJ, 06/09/09)
Cap and trade mess
(FT, 28/06/09)
Climate talks: What China, India and Brazil want (FT Energy Source, 29/04/09)