Energy and Climate Change at the G-8 Summit
July 9, 2009
Q1: Were there any significant outcomes or agreements on energy and climate that emerged from the G-8 summit and Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate (MEF) meetings?
A1: The G-8 communiqué reaffirmed many of the sentiments expressed in past communiqués: the need to provide affordable and reliable energy supplies to support economic well-being and development, to invest in clean energy technologies, to ensure adequate investment and sound investment frameworks, and the need for global action to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the unavoidable impacts of climate change.
The MEF declaration on the other hand delivered a decidedly more energized tone than past statements and signs of progress on its two main areas of focus: targets for emissions reduction and technology cooperation. These include an agreement that developing countries will take actions to reduce emissions in a "meaningful deviation from business as usual in the midterm" and that the "peaking of global and national emissions should take place as soon as possible." On technology cooperation, the group pledged to coordinate and increase public sector investments in clean energy technology, "with a view to doubling such investments by 2015." The group also created a global partnership "to drive transformational low-carbon, climate-friendly technologies" and further tasked lead countries to report back by November 2009 on roadmaps and recommendations for advancing technological progress.
Leading up to the summit there was a great deal of speculation over whether the MEF countries would agree to some sort of long-term emissions reduction target, either a 50 percent reduction of emissions by 2050 or a commitment to prevent atmospheric temperature rise above 2 degrees Celsius. While the MEF declaration did recognize the 2 degree benchmark as an important objective, China, India, and other major developing economies have long been reluctant to sign such a pledge toward long-term emissions reduction until they see demonstrated commitments by developed countries to steep emissions reductions in the medium term (2020 time frame). It is no surprise that an agreement on long-term targets was not reached, as many members of the international community are waiting to see the outcome of the U.S. congressional debate on climate legislation as proof of U.S. commitment. According to today's declaration, the MEF will continue trying to identify a 2050 global emissions reduction target for the Copenhagen meeting.
Q2: How will these meetings influence the ongoing U.S. domestic policy debate or the international climate negotiations under the United Nations?
A2: The U.S. Congress, having recently passed energy and climate legislation in the House and currently debating legislation in the Senate, was anxious to see how their efforts were received by the international community. G-8 and MEF participants continue to applaud the United States for its markedly different stance and improved level of engagement over the previous administration. Many Europeans and major developing countries, however, wish to see deeper midterm emissions reductions than exist in current U.S. legislation. On the U.S. side, some lawmakers will view the absence of an agreement on long-term reduction targets as part of am MEF agreement as an indication of China and India's unwillingness to take aggressive action on climate change. Others will see it as a concrete sign that the United States and other developed countries must work to take more aggressive domestic action and show greater leadership.
As it relates to the UN Conference of Parties meeting this December in Copenhagen, the results of this summit indicate a strong amount of political momentum and consensus building among the world's major emitters. Although the Copenhagen meeting is only six months away, it was premature to expect any major breakthroughs on contentious issues like developing country targets for emissions reduction or financing of developing country efforts by the developed countries. The MEF declaration indicates that major emitters are focused on ways to concretely improve on the national policies and measures designed to reduce emissions and encourage clean energy development and bolster greater investment and cooperation in transformational energy technologies.
Sarah Ladislaw is a fellow with the Energy and National Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.
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