Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Still In Denial About Global Warming

By Sunny Lewis - Editor-in-chief of Environment News Service, an independently owned, real-time wire service covering the environment. The G8 plan to combat climate change has been "watered down" to satisfy the United States, an environmental group said last week after viewing a leaked draft prepared in advance of next month's G8 Summit at the Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland. Friends of the Earth reacted "with anger" at the content of the draft communique on climate change entitled "Gleneagles Plan of Action," and dated June 14. Compared to an earlier draft leaked on May 2, which itself had no specific targets or timetables for action, this version appears to be even weaker. The latest draft "worryingly even calls into question scientists' warnings that global climate change is already under way," Friends of the Earth said. On June 7, the national science academies of all the G8 countries -- Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States -- plus the three largest developing countries, Brazil, China and India, issued joint statement declaring "there is now strong evidence that significant global warming is occurring." "It is likely that most of the warming in recent decades can be attributed to human activities," the scientific academies said, adding, "The scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify nations taking prompt action." Friends of the Earth International's climate campaigner Catherine Pearce said, "Every reference to the urgency of action or the need for real cuts in emissions has been deleted or challenged. Nothing in this text recognizes the scale or urgency of the crisis of climate change." G8 Summit host, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, has vowed to put action to limit climate change at the top of the G8 agenda, but with just 17 days to go before the leaders of the world's eight wealthiest nations meet at the Gleneagles Hotel, it appears that the draft action plan is being weakened so that little action will result. Enclosed in square brackets, which mean that unanimous agreement has not been reached, are the statements, "[Our world is warming.]" and "[The statement issued by the science academies in June 2005 said that there is now 'strong evidence that significant global warming is occurring' and that 'this warming has already led to changes in the Earth's climate.]" Other bracketed statements include, "[The world's developed economies have a responsibility to show leadership.]" and the phrase "[and reduce greenhouse gas emissions]" "[Those of us who have ratified the Kyoto Protocol welcome its entry into force and will work to make it a success.]" was enclosed in brackets. Also bracketed was a much longer statement about the Kyoto Protocol that would strengthen its greenhouse gas emissions trading system and flexible market mechanisms that facilitate investment in carbon neutral projects. The environmentalists believe the changes were made at the insistence of the Bush administration, which has declined to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, although the United States signed the accord under the Clinton administration. All of the other G8 nations have ratified the protocol that requires an average 5.2 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2012. After listening to U.S. chief climate negotiator Harlan Watson speaking on the BBC's Today Programme on May 13, Pearce said, "The G8 meeting provides an unprecedented opportunity for the richest nations to address the biggest threat facing our planet, but this opportunity will be missed due to the disgraceful, outdated and downright dangerous behavior of the U.S." In the "Gleneagles Plan of Action," square brackets were also inserted into a commitment to work with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) to provide an assessment of the climate impact of aviation. The words [the IPCC] are bracketed, indicating less than unanimous agreement to work with the panel of more than 2,500 scientists established by the World Meteorological Organization and the UN Environment Programme to assess scientific, technical and socio-economic information about climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation. At a minimum Friends of the Earth says the G8 must state "agreement on the compelling scientific evidence showing that climate change is already happening and that urgent action is now required to substantially reduce emissions." The group urges an agreement by G8 nations for "specific, substantial and timetabled cuts in their domestic emissions of greenhouse gases." "If they can't do better than this," said Pearce, "the outcome of G8 summit will be worse that hot air -- it will be a backward step in international climate change policy, simply adding to climate injustice." Also bracketed is a a proposal to launch "[a Global Bioenergy Partnership to support wider cost effective biomass and biofuels deployment, particularly in developing countries where biomass use is prevalent...]" Friends of the Earth Scotland's Chief Executive Duncan McLaren, said, "Any suggestion that G8's visit to Scotland would produce anything meaningful on tackling climate change is rapidly evaporating." "The first draft of this document was bad, this update is even worse," said McLaren. All reference to funding for climate change research was deleted from the latest version of the communique. "G8 countries represent just 13 per cent of the world's population, but account for 45 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions," McLaren said. "A climate plan of action, by the world's richest nations that does not include targets, timetables and extra funding is of no use to future climate victims." Speaking to Channel 4 News former British Environment Minister Michael Meacher said it is "extraordinary" that doubt is being cast on the simple assertion that the world is getting warmer. "Presumably it was taken out because of the Americans," he said. Other British officials said there are drafts and drafts in the days before any international summit, and the only draft that matters is the one signed at Gleneagles.

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