THIS WORLD of OURS
By Bob Harwood
Scorecard On Climate Change
The recent G8 Summit in Italy made but tiny steps toward setting the stage for December when world leaders gather in Copenhagen under UN auspices to draft a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.
G8 Progress: Nay-sayers on the reality of global warming have vanished. Developing nations were invited to join the discussion. Obama’s America is now making a respectful, positive contribution. Developed and developing countries agreed that global temperature must not be allowed to rise more than 2 degrees Celsius above 1900 levels. First world countries accepted responsibility for being the historic cause of the problem. They set themselves a vaguely defined target of reducing emissions by 80% by 2050 suggesting a 50% cut for developing nations.
G8 Failures: The 80% cut in First World emissions by 2050 is a vague aspiration goal and even that one on which Canada has since equivocated. Developing nations rejected the proposed 50 percent cut in their emissions in the absence of an interim 2020 target for major progress on First World cuts. China’s total emissions have only now caught up with those of the United States but China has 4.3 times as many people! Immediately after the summit UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon echoed this need for substantial near-in targets.
Full marks for EU nations acting on the Kyoto base year of 1990 for both their already achieved reductions and for further cuts. America and Canada, with emissions per capita twice those of Europe, seek a much more recent base year so as not to be held accountable for their long delay in getting started. There were no specifics on first world responsibility to fund large-scale technology transfers to facilitate developing nations in curbing emissions.
History: By 2005 the 1997 Kyoto Protocol became a binding agreement with America the only G8 member having failed to ratify. However, Canada under a Prime Minister ideologically aligned with President Bush, was experiencing soaring per capita carbon emissions spurred in significant measure by oil sands development in the PM’s Alberta political heartland. Harper’s excuse for not meeting Canada’s ratified Kyoto commitment was to blame earlier inaction on the part of his Liberal predecessors, an excuse that is no longer relevant in 2009 and beyond. As the annual World Wild Life G8 Climate Scorecard moved from 2008 to 2009 Canada replaced America in last spot while European nations continue to hold the top four ratings. Over 100 heads of state and governments now plan to attend the largest ever meeting of leaders on climate change in September to build momentum going into December in Copenhagen.
The Future: The ball is now clearly in North America’s court. Obama, with many urgent agendas, must resist those seeking to water down his initiatives to combat global warming. He faces powerful lobbyists and an often dysfunctional Congress as parochial constituency level politics prevail in the run up to 2010 mid term elections. But Canada’s Harper can no longer shelter in the lea of a President Bush’s recalcitrance. Concerned provinces—with the notable exception of Alberta—and Canada’s general public are much further down the environmental road dragging a reluctant Prime Minister.
If Harper is to have any credibility as he hosts the G8 summit in 2010 he must make a major shift on this vital issue, and do so before the Copenhagen gathering in December. It is my hope that he will not shame his country—my country—on the world stage.