Leaders of the Group of Eight rich nations, or G-8, have concluded their recent meeting in Japan with a meaningless statement on climate change.
The G-8 says it will try to halve carbon emissions by 2050. That sounds impressive. But it is a mere reiteration of what its leaders had agreed to at their meeting in Germany last year. Getting US President George Bush on board is an empty gesture. The US did not ratify the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, a global deal on climate change. Bush’s jumping on board makes little difference now. He will be out of the White House by the end of this year. Either John McCain or Barack Obama will be US president when the Kyoto Protocol is replaced in 2014.
But the most immediate disappointment is the ambiguity about the intent to halve carbon emissions by 2050. Halved compared with what— their levels in 1990, today or some date in the future? No wonder environmentalists have rubbished the new G-8 statement as a lot of hot air about climate change.
The G-8 leaders seem to have signalled their intention to move towards a new climate change deal to replace the Kyoto Protocol. The next US administration is likely to be part of the negotiations. But they have been short on details because they want India and China to agree to emission cuts as well.
This is blatantly unfair for several reasons. One, India and China are big incremental polluters but have almost no responsibility for the build-up in greenhouse gases till now. Two, they are too poor to sacrifice growth right now. Three, the metric to consider is not overall national emissions but per capita emissions; India, especially, is a low polluter on that basis. Four, some part of the pollution in India and China is because of the fact that polluting industries have been shifted there from Europe and Asia. Pollution has been outsourced.
India has done the right thing in staving off pressure to enter into a premature commitment on emission cuts. But the government needs a clear strategy on how to stay in the negotiations without letting go of many valid objections.
Climate change is a global problem and a nation with ambitions of sitting at the high table should be part of the eventual solution.
Does India have a credible climate change strategy? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org