G8’s climate change rhetoric brought down to size

By Alex Stevenson

Agreement on cutting global warming at last week’s G8 summit, hailed by Gordon Brown, has been dismissed as a “baby step” by a climate change expert.

The prime minister told the Commons on Monday the L’Aquila meeting in Italy would be remembered as “the climate change summit”.

It agreed that the impact of global warming must not exceed 2C and, for the first time, all nations committed to cutting carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.

Charity Christian Aid’s senior climate change adviser Alison Doig told politics.co.uk the G8 agreements reflected “extremely slow” progress in the first half of 2009.

She described the G8 agreement as “a small baby step rather than the huge step we need to be getting”.

“We’re so close to Copenhagen, we need to be taking huge steps towards an agreement,” she pressed.

Last month the government unveiled its ‘Road to Copenhagen’ manifesto, outlining its plans in the run-up to the crucial summit this December. World leaders will have to achieve a new deal to replace the Kyoto protocols, which expire in 2012.

Among the measures proposed in that manifesto was a call for developed countries to provide around $100 billion a year for financial aid for climate mitigation.

Ms Doig said Christian Aid welcomed this commitment and pressed it was “not all doom and gloom”.

“The government are trying to get other countries to push the pace, but at the same time they haven’t offered any money up front,” she reflected.

“They would like these funds but the Chinas and Indias of the world are saying – no one’s made an offer of finance on the table. There’s still a lot of jollying for position and only showing half of your cards about what you’re offering.”

She did criticise Britain, and other countries, for engaging in what she called “double-counting”.

Developed countries have carbon reduction targets which rely on offsetting, by financing reductions in the developing world, to be met.

Ms Doig said many countries were guilty of trying to count their offset emissions overseas to their domestic achievements.

“There’s definitely a double-counting of what they’re trying to achieve,” she said. “To achieve two degrees, we need both.

“It adds up to a lack of ambition. They keep saying they want to stay below two degrees, they want to help developing countries to adapt.

“But what they’re offering will not achieve emission cuts of two degrees.”