G8 Summit: China and India win the day over climate change
In the final statement Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, who chaired the summit, said that G8 leaders agreed to the goal of achieving at least 50 per cent reduction in global emissions, a “long-term goal [that] is an appropriate and necessary goal for the earth.”
In stressing the importance G8 nations place in their positive approach to developing nations and emerging economies, he said that they had taken the first step in this direction.
In the joint statement signed by the G8 nations and eight other major polluting nations, the leaders said: “[W]e, the leaders of the world’s major economies, both developed and developing, commit to combat climate change in accordance with our common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.”
Mr Fukuda praised the declaration as a step promoting negotiations under the aegis of the United Nations so that a fresh agreement against pollution can be adopted and replace the Kyoto Protocol.
“This is a big achievement,” Fukuda said. “We have made a contribution to accelerate negotiations (to reduce emissions) at the United Nations.”
The US president also put a positive spin on the outcome.
However, scientists and NGOs disagree. For them the summit was a failure because it did not set any measurable targets or timeframe.
Reiji Yoshida, a staff writer for The Japan Times, summarised the summit this way: “The major industrialized powers and key emerging economies agreed to jointly fight global warming but failed to set any quantitative goals to substantiate their pledge”. And the accusation levelled at the leaders that their pledge is too vague can only spread a sense of mistrust and pessimism.
Indeed, only G8 leaders took part in the first two days of the summit, the first one centred on Africa and the second on global warming and only they took part in drafting the joint statement at the end of day two, successfully overcoming President Bush’s reluctance to mention a 50 per cent reduction in global carbon emissions by 2050; however, on the third day when the leaders of emerging nations, especially those of China and India, joined the summit, quantitative targets were removed overnight as the editorial page of Japan’s Asahi newspaper pointed out. Diplomatic talks that went well into the night failed to win over the emerging nations, especially China, which is unwilling to compromise its economic development. And so reduction targets did not appear in the final communiqué. Still a step forward was made.
The starting point of the journey that led to the Toyako Summit was the statement released in last year’s G8 summit in Heiligendamm (Germany) in which the parties agreed to “seriously consider” cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. In this summit Japanese Prime Minister Fukuda more coherently formulated his vision to reduce carbon emissions by 50 per cent by 2050.
In order to achieve that goal, Bush’s resistance had to be overcome. For the US leader the Kyoto Protocol and similar agreements are ineffective if countries like China do not join in since China is second only to the United States as the world’s top polluter.
Hence the G8 Summit in Toyako became a theatre for a diplomatic battle between developed and developing countries which the latter won.
Still the summit was not entirely a failure. The participant nations with emerging economies signed onto the joint statement and thus officially committed themselves to play by international rules.
The ball is now in their court and they cannot refuse to play. Another meeting is fast approaching. Next year the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will meet in Copenhagen to work out another agreement to fight pollution. And China is expected at the table.