G8 Leaders Move Closer to U.S. Position on Global Warming

Published August 1, 2005

Leaders of the Group of Eight (G8) major industrialized nations concluded a summit meeting during the first week of July with a joint statement on climate change that heralded a significant shift away from the command-and-control regulatory focus of the Kyoto Protocol.

The statement moved the group toward what many analysts see as a more economically and technologically feasible approach to climate change theory.

Divisions Failed to Materialize

For weeks prior to the summit, environmental activist groups predicted the meeting would turn up the heat on President George W. Bush’s market-conscious and science-based climate change policies.

The idea was to force Bush to capitulate to the energy-rationing schemes of the Kyoto Protocol or face isolation and disgrace in the presence of European Union leaders who have been the main proponents of Kyoto.

To the contrary, however, a joint statement by the G8 leaders at the conclusion of the summit demonstrated the European Union is moving closer to Bush’s climate change position.

Science Must Justify

According to the joint statement, “uncertainties remain in our understanding of climate change.” The leaders pledged “to put ourselves on a path to slow and … stop and then reverse the growth of greenhouse gases,” but to do so only “as the science justifies.”

The leaders did “reaffirm our commitment to the UNFCCC and to its ultimate objective to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that prevents dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. We reaffirm the importance of the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and look forward to its 2007 report.”

Nevertheless, the statement emphasized the path to greenhouse gas stabilization should focus on technological innovation and economic feasibility, rather than command-and-control emissions caps. Strikingly absent from the joint statement was any mention of the Kyoto Protocol.

Additionally, the joint statement failed to credit or even mention any of the scientifically suspect predictions of drought, famine, storm frequency, and other “catastrophes” predicted by global warming alarmists.

Efficiency and Innovation Stressed

Instead, the leaders emphasized energy innovation as opposed to Kyoto’s rigid energy rationing and enforcement timetables. “Affordable energy sources are fundamental to economic stability and development,” the joint statement said. “We will, therefore take further action to: “(a) promote innovation, energy efficiency, conservation; improve policy, regulatory and financing frameworks; and accelerate deployment of cleaner technologies, particularly lower-emitting technologies.

“(b) work with developing countries to enhance private investment and transfer of technologies, taking into account their own energy needs and priorities.

“(c) raise awareness of climate change and our other multiple challenges, and the means of dealing with them; and make available the information which business and consumers need to make better use of energy and reduce emissions.”

Adaptation Plays Key Role

In addition to the importance of technological innovation and economically rational decision-making, the leaders emphasized that adaptation to climate change is every bit as important as reducing greenhouse gases.

“Adaptation to the effects of climate change due to both natural and human factors is a high priority for all nations,” the statement read.

China, India Must Participate

Moreover, the summit leaders agreed to Bush’s long-argued point that climate change treaties are ineffectual and pointless if they do not include the rapidly growing nations of China and India, which are second and third in the world in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.

“If we don’t have America, China, India taking the action necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, then we won’t solve climate change,” British Prime Minister Tony Blair declared at a post-summit news conference.

Kyoto Dead, Analysts Say

“The idea of capping ‘greenhouse gas’ emissions is cleverly replaced by an emphasis on technological innovation and imaginative development,” observed Philip Stott, emeritus professor of biogeography at the University of London. “The Kyoto Protocol is effectively dead.

“There will be no capping of dynamic growth for mistaken and misguided environmental aims,” added Stott.

“The European world view is in decline and Kyoto is a monument to Europe’s magnificent cleverness, its use of soft power and its blind faith in regulation and controls,” declared a house editorial in the July 13 Australian.

“I think there is a pretty clear international recognition now that any chance of going ahead with the Kyoto system of caps, targets and timetables is destined to failure,” observed Australian Environment Minister Ian Campbell, as reported by the Australian.

Media Myths Exploded

The Australian editorial went on to declare, “The media orthodoxy that the US and Australia are isolated in refusing to embrace Kyoto is now obsolete. Whether it was ever accurate is debatable. The rearguard action to salvage Kyoto will be waged by some European nations, the green lobby and sections of the scientific community but their cause seems forlorn.”

“At the end of the day, the Bush administration’s position on global warming prevailed at the G8 summit,” Myron Ebell, director of global warming and international environmental policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, said.

“While some observers had hoped that summit host Tony Blair would leverage his relationship with the president to pull the U.S. closer to the European position, the final agreement makes it clear that the opposite is the case,” Ebell noted.

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News.