G8 to act on climate change, later... maybe

Feature story - 7 June, 2007
In the lead up to this year's summit, leaked documents made it clear there was a distinct split among the G8 on the issue of climate change. After all, seven of the member countries have committed to the Kyoto Protocol's binding reductions of greenhouse gas emissions - while the US (far and away the worst offender) has not.

G8 heads of state around the summit table.


Update:

  First hand account of today's peaceful Greenpeace action.  And here's some vide of it:

Deal brokered

Traditionally,this sort of thing is smoothed over beforehand. However, this timegovernments kept fighting publicly until this afternoon. In the end,the divisions got papered over with rhetoric. Most likely thepoliticians feel quite satisfied at having avoided a publicdisagreement. But the differences remain obvious for all to see.The final document agreed by the G8 also contains a promise that allleaders will "seriously consider" the binding emission cuts the EU andalmost all G8 members have committed to. In other words, Bush willwatch, while the rest of the world, hopefully, acts.  

Thedeal is "clearly not enough to prevent dangerous climate change" saidDaniel Mittler, climate policy advisor of Greenpeace International atthe summit. "Governments failed to commit to what science tells us isnecessary here. They must now urgently do so at the United Nations."

Whatthese leaders, of the world's wealthiest nations, fail to take intoaccount is that reducing CO2 emissions by 50 percent, compared to 1990levels, by 2050 is not a negotiable diplomatic point - it is a physicalreality. And, as we've already learned from the last 15 years,voluntary measures simply don't work.

Politics aside, the G8 areresponsible for over 80 percent of the climate change we witness today,and still emit over 40 percent of all global emissions. They aretherefore morally bound to act first and act firmly.  

Silver lining in a cloudy sky

Theisolation of the US on climate change was at least further exposedthrough this whole process - leaving the Bush Administration scramblingfor diversionary tactics.

Today's document also confirms thatthe United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is the bestway forward, which sets back Bush's plan for a US controlled parallelprocess. This means, that the road is clear for real negotiations onbinding emission cuts to start in earnest at the next climate meetingin Bali in December this year.

Though as Greenpeace UK directorJohn Sauven pointed out, "Scientists tell us we need to slash emissionsover the next decade if we're to have a chance of preventing dangerousclimate change. This document acknowledges the seriousness of thesituation then ducks reality by offering weasel words like 'seriouslyconsidering', as if this was an after dinner discussion rather than themost important issue facing the world."

Into the exclusion zone

Tensof thousands of people have been peacefully protesting these past days,both at Heiligendamm and at an alternative summit - trying to get themessage through to the G8 that the time to act is now.

Yesterday,German police pre-emptively boarded our ship, the Arctic Sunrise - eventhough it was well outside the summit's exclusion zone. The police cameon without a search warrant and confined the 24 crew before seizingGreenpeace equipment including engines from inflatables, making theboats unusable, and the hull of a Greenpeace hot air balloon.  

Thismorning, 24 Greenpeace activists, using 11 speedboats took the message"G8: Act Now!" to the waters around the beachfront summit hotel. Theyentered the outer restricted area at 11am, informing the police as theydid so. They came in from both east and west sides, entering into theinner restricted zone 10 minutes later.

Police boats ran oversome of the Greenpeace boats - injuring six activists and sendingseveral to the hospital. Fortunately, no one suffered more than severebruising. The activists were trying to deliver a petition calling forclear commitments on climate change.

At last report, the boats and 19 activists were in police custody.

Thenext major UN Climate Conference will be in Bali, Indonesia, December2007. Governments there must commit to the reductions that sciencerequires, to stop catastrophic climate change.

-- More updates and background on our G8 page --

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