Hollande urges G8 leaders to focus on climate challenge

By Ed King

Francois Hollande has called on world leaders attending the G8 summit in Northern Ireland this week to consider what steps they can take to cut the growth of global carbon emissions.

Writing in the Huffington Post, the French President, whose country will host the UN summit where a global climate treaty is set to be agreed, says the G8 can set an example for the rest of the world.

“There can be no growth or development that is not sustainable. To address the issue of climate change, we will meet hopefully in France in 2015 for the United Nations Climate Change Conference,” he says.

“It is the responsibility of the international community as a whole to ensure the success of the negotiations. The G8 must do its part and give a strong political impetus to curb carbon emissions.”

G8 nations comprise 50.1% of 2012 global nominal GDP and 40.9% of global GDP (PPP) (Pic: USA)

British Prime Minister David Cameron has stressed that tax, trade and transparency are the main themes for the meeting, which brings together Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, USA and the UK.

In March RTCC revealed the UK was blocking efforts to add climate change onto the G8 agenda, but the Queen’s Speech in May, which sets out UK government priorities, suggested it would now be part of discussions.

G8 countries represent around 50% of the global economy, and account for approximately 46% of carbon emissions released on an annual basis.

Previous summits have concluded with agreements on climate finance and emission targets. Ahead of the ill-fated 2009 Copenhagen climate summit the group pledged 80% cuts by 2050.

The 2012 Camp David Declaration stressed the group’s resolve to try to hold global temperature rises to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels, calling for the phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies.

Finance

Barry Gardiner, the British Labour Party’s Special Envoy for Climate Change, told RTCC it was critical the G8 considered how best to maintain flows of finance to the developing world, an issue that is set to dominate this November’s UN climate summit in Warsaw.

In 2010 developed nations committed to providing $100 billion funding a year by 2020, a total likely to be funded largely by G8 members.

Gardiner also emphasised the importance of all leaders understanding how negotiations towards a global emissions deal were progressing, to prevent a repeat of Copenhagen.

“The key thing that they need to discuss is the run-up to the 2015 Paris climate summit and how it is going to be structured. Among the EU countries there is a critical issue about the rest of the EU emissions trading scheme, and I very much hope they will be talking about it,” he said.

“The other thing they will need to begin to think about and I suspect this will come on the agenda, is the way 2015 is not just the coming together of the UNFCCC process but the UN Sustainability Goals and UN Development Goals Mark 2, and exploring the links between water, food and energy.”

Action deficit

Reports from the International Energy Agency (IEA) and Climate Action Tracker last week emphasised the substantial level of emission cuts required to ensure the planet avoids the 2°C limit governments agreed on in 2009.

The IEA’s report mapped out a four-pronged strategy that it says could cut 3.1 gigatonnes (GT) of emissions from the energy sector by 2020, while maintaining levels of economic growth.

This is critical, given a 2012 UNEP study revealed an emissions gap of 8 to 13GT of equivalent CO2 could exist by 2020.

“This [IEA] report, coming from the world’s leading experts on energy, sends a very clear message,” said Fred Krupp, from the Environmental Defence Fund.

“We have the tools we need to make the turn toward climate safety. What is needed is the political will to act. This report should be required reading for the G8 Summit.”

Realistic aims

The summit’s main focus on transparency could make a substantial contribution to efforts to promote sustainable development according to the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).

It argues transparency in deals that give companies access to land and natural resources in Africa, Asia and Latin America — could help to increase accountability, equity and sustainable development.

Specifically it says the secret nature of deals can encourage corruption and tax evasion. It excludes citizens from decisions about local natural resources.

“G8 leaders need to see transparency not as an end-goal, but as the means to an end. Transparency needs to increase accountability in natural resource management. It needs to empower local people affected by resource extraction projects,” said the IIED’s Dr Emma Wilson.

“People affected by resource extraction projects or land investments need to be able to access the information that the various transparency initiatives gather.”

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