Perspectives on the G8-Summit: Climate change negotiations
On June 25, GMF and the Heinrich Boell Foundation hosted a roundtable discussion with Mr. Reinhard Buetikofer, Chairman of the German Green Party, and Ms. Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center for Global Climate Change. The discussion, entitled Perspectives on the G8-Summit: What does it mean for the future of climate change negotiations? was very timely with climate change having recently topped the agenda of the G8 summit held in Germany earlier this month.
Differences in approaches between the United States and Europe in responding to the climate challenge became clearly obvious as pre-meeting dialogues almost broke down when the United States government balked at Chancellor Merkel's proposal for set targets and mandatory limits on green house gas emissions, preferring instead a policy of technology promotion. In the end, both sides compromised and an agreement was reached to continue the climate change negotiations under the structure of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC).
Buetikofer thought that Chancellor Merkel could not be very satisfied with the results of the G8-Summit as she promised clear-cut goals and targets. He pointed to the weak language in the G8 document on leadership of the member countries, which mentions that emissions "should be" halved. In reality, to meet this goal industrialized nations would have to reduce their own emissions by eighty percent and this is not mentioned anywhere in the text. The document also lacks binding targets and has a very long timetable (2050) for looking to reduce emissions. A tougher goal would be to try to reduce emissions by thirty percent by 2020, a goal that Germany is trying to even improve upon by committing to reduce emissions by forty percent in this timeframe. Mr. Buetikofer also faulted the Bush Administration for trying to tie U.S. commitments to China's actions. He feels this will wreck the entire process and furthermore underscores the administration's position that addressing climate change is an economic burden as opposed to an opportunity for spurring new technologies and innovations. The perception of the climate challenge as an opportunity also fails to appear in the G8-Summit document. Buetikofer summarized the G8-Summit as a disappointment but not a failure because the process will go on.
Claussen stressed that there was not much hope for Chancellor Merkel to reach her goals from the out-set and to have set expectations that they would be met were simply unrealistic given the Bush administration's historical positioning on climate change. She believes that the real test of where we are in the negotiating will be in Bali at the next Conference of the Parties meeting. In Ms. Claussen's opinion, the G8-Summit did succeed in getting a commitment to the UN process from all members, but she went on to say that that would likely have occurred anyway in a year and a half when the United States has a new President. She believes that the parallel major emitters process that involves China and India could be a useful process if done correctly, such as all countries having the same requirements and different countries having different commitments and targets for reducing their emissions. A major factor in international climate change negotiations will be whether or not the United States adopts domestic legislation and what that legislation looks like. Claussen believes that it is unlikely that the United States will have a climate policy in place by 2009, very likely by 2010, but not as far-reaching as what the EU has put on the table.