The G-8 agreement (especially on climate change)

Here is the 38-page “Summit Declaration” from the G8 summit, released earlier today. The summit and the document cover many important economic topics. I’m going to focus on the climate change section, which is receiving a lot of press coverage.

We are very pleased. Let me start with some quotes from the President while he was in Germany this week:

(Y)ou’re not going to have greenhouse gas emissions that mean anything unless all nations, all emitters are at the table. And if China is not a part of the process, we all can make major strides and yet there won’t be a reduction, until China and India are participants. And what I have said is, here’s a way to get China and India at the table.

One, it’s going to be very important for us to continue to discuss climate change in a way that actually accomplishes an objective, which is the reduction of greenhouse gases over time, and the advancement of technologies, which will yield to better environmental policy, as well as energy security.

The United States can serve as a bridge between some nations who believe that now is the time to come up with a set goal, as well as a — I said, the remedy, and those who are reluctant to participate in the dialogue. So I laid out an agenda that can move the process forward within the framework of the United Nations, that, in essence, says that we’ll be setting a goal at the end of 2008 — that “we” being the major emitters — within the framework of the U.N. In other words, this will fold into the U.N. framework. And that enables us to get China and India at the table to discuss how we can all move forward together.

Secondly, in my speech I said we’ll come up with our own policies to meet an interim goal for our country, as well as a national goal — or international goal for the rest of the world.

And here is Dave McCormick, who is Steve Hadley’s economic deputy on the National Security Council staff and the President’s “G8 sherpa”:

I think you’ll see an enormous amount of agreement and consensus around a number of key principles. Again, the importance of climate being thought of within the context of energy security and development; the focus on technology — an enormous focus on technology and the technology being a key driver of dealing with these common challenges and opportunities together. There was an absolute consensus, building on the President’s speech last week, on the crucial importance of bringing the major emitting economies into a discussion, an agreement on the path ahead. And so that was a highlighted part of the agreement and text, with a specific outline of how that process with major emitters would move forward, and the role that the G8 would play and the United States would play, from a leadership standpoint, in pushing that dialogue forward to an appropriate and successful end.

Despite what an initial AP article says, the G8 leaders did not agree to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. That is one specific proposal that will be “seriously considered” during the upcoming “major emitters process” that the U.S. will host. In fact, the EU, Japan, and Canada each have different versions that we expect will be “seriously considered” during that process. In addition, it has not been widely reported that the EU, Japanese, and Canadian proposals recommend that the long-term goal be a “common vision” (or aspirational) goal, and not a binding one.

Consistent with the President’s proposal last week, the G8 leaders agreed to set a long-term global goal based on emissions (not temperature) in the upcoming process. They did not, however, agree in Heiligendamm to any specific quantitative emissions goal. They also did not agree to create a global cap-and-trade system or a global carbon market. And because this process will only work with participation by China, India, and other major emitters, the outcome should differ from the Kyoto deal (which the U.S. and others rejected). The most constructive way to make progress with China and India is to give them an equal seat at the table and to make sure the discussion includes energy security and economic development priorities. The new “major emitters process” does that.

Let’s look at what they did agree to, and compare it to what the President proposed a week ago today. Each of these elements that I highlighted last week is now included in the G8 declaration:

  • He’s proposing a new process. 
  • The discussion would involve the “major emitters” – nations that are responsible for the majority of the world’s greenhouse gases, including India and China. 
    • The top major emitters are: U.S., China, the European Union, Russia, Canada, Japan, India, South Korea, Australia, Brazil, Mexico, and South Africa. So everyone in the G8 is included, as well as several others.
    • This year, China’s greenhouse gas emissions are expected to exceed U.S. emissions, and by 2020, China may use 3X-4X more coal than the U.S. And 75% of the future growth in emissions will come from the major emerging economies.
  • We (the U.S.) “will convene a series of meetings.” 
  • The group would work to “set a long-term global goal for reducing greenhouse gases.” 
  • Such a goal would be an aspirational (non-binding) global goal. 
  • The Kyoto Protocol (which the U.S. rejected) expires in 2012. This new process is to establish a framework that would take effect after that. By the way, it can take place within the 1992 U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. 
  • Each country should set its own targets, and its own methods for hitting those targets. 
  • The group should have all this worked out by the end of 2008. 

Some additional and important practical features of the President’s proposal are well-reflected in the G8 text:

  • the value of a “bottom-up approach” in which we tackle issues on a sector-by-sector basis along the lines of the successful Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development & Climate that the U.S. initiated with Australia, China, India, Japan, and Korea; and
  • coal, nuclear, calling on other countries to invest more in R&D (like we already are), and opening up trade by eliminating tariff and non-tariff barriers.

This is a major achievement in finding convergence among a group of countries that have had difficulty finding consensus in the past on this issue. Kudos go to Dave McCormick, and to the Chairman of the President’s Council on Environmental Quality, Jim Connaughton.

By | 2017-12-09T10:35:28+00:00 Thursday, 7 June 2007|