by Judith Curry
Most reactions ignore the fact that the G8 leaders already agreed to “the goal of achieving at least a 50% reduction of global emissions by 2050” in advance of the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009. (You judge the results.) – Michael Levi
The G& leaders concluded their meeting in Bonn, and have issued the following statement: G7 Leaders Declaration. The Declaration covers a lot of ground, and environment and climate issues were an important topic.
A lot of news reports on the G7 meeting, and many post meeting analyses. If those that I’ve read, I find this analysis by Michael Levi to be the most insightful What Matters and (Doesn’t) in the G7 Climate Declaration. Excerpts:
I’m struck in particular the parts that seem to be the most important are different from those that have generated the most headlines.
“[A Paris] agreement should enhance transparency and accountability including through binding rules at its core to track progress towards achieving targets…. This should enable all countries to follow a low-carbon and resilient development pathway….”
The United States has long pressed for a shift away from binding emissions reduction commitments and toward a mix of nationally grounded emission-cutting efforts and binding international commitments to transparency and verification. European countries have often taken the other side, emphasizing the importance of binding targets (or at least policies) for cutting emissions. Now it looks like the big developed countries are on the same page as the United States. The language above is all about binding countries to transparency – and there isn’t anything elsewhere in the communiqué about binding them to actual emissions goals.
“We will intensify our support particularly for vulnerable countries own efforts to manage climate change related disaster risk and to build resilience. We will aim to increase by up to 400 million the number of people in the most vulnerable developing countries who have access to direct or indirect insurance coverage against the negative impact of climate change related hazards by 2020 and support the development of early warning systems in the most vulnerable countries.”
This is the most substantive portion of the climate part of the communiqué. It reflects an increasing focus on adaptation in general and on insurance in particular. Indeed this part of the communiqué is unusually straightforward, and therefore well suited to clear follow-through. The mushiest bit is the undefined “climate change related hazards”. Ideally G7 countries would help vulnerable populations get access to insurance against extreme weather hazards of all origins – whether or not those are generated by climate change – and, in practice, that’s presumably what insurance would do.
“We emphasize the deep cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions are required with a decarbonization of the global economy over the source of this century…. As a common vision for a global goal of greenhouse gas emissions reductions we support sharing with all parties to the UNFCCC the upper end of the latest IPCC recommendation of 40 to 70% reductions by 2050 compared to 2010 recognizing that this challenge can only be met by a global response.”
This statement generated the biggest headlines (“G7 leaders agree to phase out fossil fuels”), but it’s also the least consequential. Most reactions ignore the fact that the G8 leaders already agreed to “the goal of achieving at least a 50% reduction of global emissions by 2050” in advance of the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009. (You judge the results.) And the idea that an 85-year goal will have much impact on present policy or investment is a bit ridiculous. (Had you told a physicist in 1905 that a fifth of U.S. electricity would be generated by nuclear fission within 85 years, they would have said, “What’s a nucleus or fission?”)
News reports have experts debating whether Paris can assure the world of cuts this deep. The answer should be obvious: it can’t. No decisions made today will assure any particular outcome in 2050 or 2100. Having a basic guide is useful, but beyond that, the details are pretty unimportant. Bottom line: Fiddling with distant targets is a great way to generate headlines, but doesn’t do much to affect policy and emissions themselves; at best it’s marginally irrelevant, at worst it lets people feel good without doing anything.
Sophie Yeo of CarbonBrief provides a comprehensive analysis, some excerpts:
The G7 declaration calls this year’s UN talks in Paris “crucial for the protection of the global climate” and says: “We want to provide key impetus for ambitious results”. It promises to put climate protection “at the centre of our growth agenda”.
However, the G7 nations only account for 19% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd argued recently that the larger G20 needed to drive the planned global climate deal.
As such, the good will of the G7 is hardly enough to guarantee success in Paris on its own. In the run-up to the 2009 climate talks in Copenhagen — variously described as a “failure”, “setback” or a “disaster” — the then-G8 group of leading nations said:
“We are committed to reaching a global, ambitious and comprehensive agreement in Copenhagen.”
The same 2009 G8 statement set a goal of cutting emissions by “at least” 50% by 2050 – within the 40-70% range set out by the G7 today. It said developed countries should collectively cut emissions by “80% or more” compared to 1990 levels.
Despite its shortcomings, the stronger elements of the G7 communique were not easily won. Wording on the long term goal could reverberate at the UN negotiations taking place this week in Germany, sending a message about the pressure that countries such as Japan and Canada are under to toe the climate line.
Business Insider has a good interpretation of some of thorny issues [link]
American Progress has an article Harnessing Insurance Markets to Enhance Climate Resilience, that relates to the G-7’s goal on expanding insurance coverage to people who are most vulnerable to climate-related hazards.
The Conversation has a good article: Good luck G7 leaders, we won’t be off fossil fuels by 2100.
Implications for Paris?
Well this all seems a bit of a yawn. Apparently China and India reject calls for tougher climate goals [link]. I will be surprised if the forthcoming Paris meeting lives up to the UNFCCC’s expectation. And even if the desired agreements are supported, the pathway to meeting these goals in the coming decades just aren’t there. The G7 meeting in Bonn is interesting in that it highlights some of the key roadblocks. Michael Levi sums it up with this comment:
Most reactions ignore the fact that the G8 leaders already agreed to “the goal of achieving at least a 50% reduction of global emissions by 2050” in advance of the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009. (You judge the results.)