The latest summit of the leaders of the G8 nations took place in July 2005, with Africa and climate change high on the agenda. Newswatch editor Mick Kelly reports.
The leaders of the Group of Eight nations have agreed that "climate change is happening now, that human activity is contributing to it, and that it could affect every part of the globe."
The final communiqué from the G8 summit, which took place July 6-8th 2005 in Gleneagles, Scotland, in the United Kingdom, contains a commitment "to take urgent action to meet the challenges we face." It reaffirms the G8 nations commitment to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its ultimate objective, the stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that prevents dangerous interference with the climate system.
"The Gleneagles Plan of Action which we have agreed demonstrates our commitment. We will take measures to develop markets for clean energy technologies, to increase their availability in developing countries, and to help vulnerable communities adapt to the impact of climate change," claim the G8 leaders. They concluded that dialogue, technological development and marketing, rather than emissions targets, were the means to address the climate problem.
In referring to climate change as a "long-term challenge that has the potential to affect every part of the globe" [emphasis added], those responsible for negotiating the final text of the Gleneagles communiqué distanced the climate problem from other "clear and present dangers", ensuring American compliance.
Prior to the meeting, the national science academies of the G8 nations and others, including China, India and Brazil, had issued a strong statement calling on their governments to take immediate action to limit global warming. "The scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify prompt action," according to the statement. "It is vital that all nations identify cost-effective steps that they can take now, to contribute to substantial and long-term reduction in net global greenhouse gas emissions."
The lack of any summit commitment to a concrete programme for emissions reductions disappointed many observers. Tony Juniper, from Friends of the Earth International, commented that "despite the growing evidence of human induced climate change and the dangers of its impacts becoming more widely known and understood, the outcomes of this summit leave us very little further ahead. While the leaders carry on talking, the world continues warming." Lord May of Oxford, President of the Royal Society, believes that "at the heart of the communiqué is a disappointing failure by the leaders of the G8 unequivocally to recognize the urgency with which we must be addressing the global threat of climate change."
"We haven’t made any progress, but at least we haven’t gone backwards, which was what we feared," commented John Lanchbery of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
The Gleneagles Plan of Action on Climate Change, Clean Energy and Sustainable Energy covers a series of commitments on:
The World Bank has been asked to create a new framework for mobilizing investment in clean energy and development.
Speaking at the close of the summit, British Prime Minister Tony Blair welcomed the Gleneagles commitment to "a new Dialogue between the G8 and the emerging economies of the world to slow down and then, in time, to reverse the rise in harmful greenhouse gas emissions." The Dialogue will begin on 1st November 2005 with a meeting in the United Kingdom.
The G8 leaders committed to boost global development aid, by US$50 billion annually by 2010, with US$25 billion extra a year for Africa. All debts owed by eligible heavily-indebted poor countries to the International Development Association, the International Monetary Fund and the African Development Fund should be cancelled.
Rock musicians and activists Bob Geldof and Bono, who have been backing a public campaign to press for action on poverty in Africa, broadly welcomed the deal. "Six hundred thousand people will be alive to remember this G8 in Gleneagles who would have lost their lives to a mosquito bite," said Bono. Geldof referred to the outcome as a "qualified triumph". He gave the leaders marks of 10/10 for their pledges on aid and 8/10 on debt relief. "A great justice has been done," he said. We are beginning to see the lives of the poor of Africa determined not by charity but by justice."
The G8 leaders made the following commitments on Africa:
While agreeing that poor countries must decide and lead their own development strategies and economic policies, extra resources would be conditional on nations having "strong national development plans" and a commitment to "good governance, democracy and transparency," in the words of the chair's summary.
The conditionality of the commitments will remain a source of contention. As the African Forum and Network on Debt and Development has commented: "Debt cancellation is being treated as a question of charity and not global justice... Conditionalities still remain a big deterrent to economic emancipation of the poor countries chosen to benefit from the deal."
All summit documents, the statement by the national academies and a statement by Paul Wolfowitz, President of the World Bank are available on-line. The Tiempo Climate Cyberlibary lists websites related to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.