Friday, July 10, 2009

Keeping an eye on real targets

Adam Morton

The Age, July 11, 2009

WHEN the highlight at climate talks is a re-announcement - of Kevin Rudd's much-lauded global carbon capture and storage institute - you know it hasn't been a great week.

There was some progress: the agreement by the G8 industrialised powers as well as the 17-member Major Economies Forum that global warming should be limited to 2 degrees is a significant step forward. Now we need policies to back it up.

In truth, the temperature target is a necessary minimum: given the worsening climate science data, anything less would have been seen as abject failure. The same goes for G8 countries saying they should cut emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.

Of course, setting 2050 targets is easy - who in L'Aquila this week will be around to be held responsible if they are not met? There was no movement on the strong 2020 targets that will be vital for an ambitious treaty to be secured this year.

Over at the Major Economies Forum, emerging giants including India and China refused to support a draft statement that global emissions should be cut in half by 2050.

Not unreasonably, the developing world doesn't want to give ground until they see evidence that the wealthy nations responsible for the bulk of the greenhouse gas in the atmosphere will commit to the significant short-term cuts needed. And they maintain poverty eradication must be the first priority. The flipside to this is concern that countries such as India and Russia "just don't get it". Certainly, they show little sign of urgency.

If this sounds gloomy, analysts close to the climate negotiations were surprisingly, and tentatively, upbeat yesterday. The leaders of the 17 major economies agreed they all must take transparent steps to limit emissions, and jointly come up with a global goal for 2050 before the all-important Copenhagen summit in December.

They promised to devise a plan to tap into low-carbon technologies by November, and G20 finance ministers have been told they have until September to come up with a formula for meeting the extraordinary cost - $US100 billion ($A129 billion) a year, according to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown - of combating climate change.

Such promises are just words, but, if followed through, they could give the faltering United Nations negotiations a kick along. Now, about those targets …

No comments: