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Debate: what would you tell the G8?

As world leaders meet in Japan, scientists, business leaders and campaign groups are calling on governments to urgently address climate change. What practical measures would you ask the major economies to take? Sam Geall begins the debate.

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All eyes are on Japan’s northernmost island, Hokkaido, this week as leaders from the world’s major industrialised countries take part in a summit at which climate change will be high on the agenda.

Meeting in Germany last year, the Group of Eight (G8) leaders – from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States – agreed to “seriously consider” a goal of halving global greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050. They also committed to negotiate a new international deal on slowing climate change beyond 2012, when the Kyoto Protocol expires.

With these agreements in mind, the United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-Moon urged the G8 leaders last week to address the “triple crisis” of climate change, poverty and rising food prices at the meeting. But will they hear his call? And will the G8 listen to the appeals of scientists, business leaders and environmentalists?

Green groups say the world’s leading economies are lagging in their progress on climate change. None are on target to reduce their emissions enough to avoid an unacceptable risk of catastrophic climate change, a recent report from WWF and financial services company Allianz warned. Even the United Kingdom – the G8 country the report ranked first for its progress on climate change – was criticised for its very small share of renewable energy and unambitious targets on emissions reduction.

So, what can the leading economies do to address an increasingly urgent global threat? Last week almost 100 heads of major companies released a set of suggestions. In the CEO Climate Policy Recommendations to G8 Leaders a group of business leaders call for a new global deal built on the foundations of the Kyoto Protocol. They urge a pragmatic and market-oriented approach based on clear international commitments and sectoral agreements. Rich countries will have to take the lead and demonstrate strong cuts in emissions, they say, proposing a policy framework that includes a renewed emphasis on adaptation and technology transfer to developing countries.

The CEOs say:

“A market for carbon is necessary but not sufficient to promote the rapid development, demonstration and wide deployment of clean technologies. While emissions and other mitigation commitments will help draw low-carbon technologies into the marketplace, other policy measures are also needed to stimulate markets, to ensure broader deployment of and equitable access to best available clean energy and GHG [greenhouse-gas] mitigation technologies, and to promote the development, deployment of new and close-to-market clean energy and GHG mitigation technologies. Such measures include:

  • Government procurement targets for clean technology, services and products
  • Rolling performance standards for services and products that can work with other policy measures to promote the turnover of old technologies
  • Removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers
  • Development of incentives to encourage wider uptake of clean energy technologies such as purchase power agreements, mandatory targets, removal of import duties, development of common standards and green certificates
  • International agreements to protect the rights of technology owners, in order to sustain and broaden investments in clean technology innovation
  • Support for international multi-industry and multi-research centre initiatives to undertake shared investigations into the new knowledge and breakthrough technologies we still need
  • Stronger public-private coordination and funding to help potentially transformational technologies to market, including partnerships for large-scale demonstration projects

It is not only business leaders who have appealed to the G8. A recent joint statement from scientists in the G8 countries and five leading emerging economies – Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa – presented world leaders with a list of recommendations. One key suggestion from the group of major scientific academies, which included the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society in the UK, was the development and deployment of technology to bury greenhouse-gas emissions from coal burning power plants.

They write:

“The development of a low carbon society means not merely the replacement of energy sources with less carbon intensive ones, but energy conservation as well. Sustainable consumption requires fundamental changes in all sectors and levels of society, including energy-saving housing, low-carbon transportation and more efficient industrial processes.


The transition to a low carbon society requires: setting standards; designing economic instruments and promoting energy efficiency across all sectors; encouraging changes in individual behaviour; strengthening technology transfer to enable leapfrogging to cleaner and more efficient technologies; and investing strongly in carbon-removing technologies and low-carbon energy resources: nuclear power, solar energy, hydroelectricity and other renewable energy sources.


Technologies should be developed and deployed for carbon capture, storage and sequestration (CCS), particularly for emissions from coal which will continue to be a primary energy source for the next 50 years for power and other industrial processes. G8+5 economies can take the lead globally to further develop CCS technologies. This will involve governments and industry working collaboratively to develop the financial and regulatory conditions needed to move CCS forward and international coordination in the development of demonstration plants.

Given the time-lags inherent in the global energy system, actions need to be taken now to reach the desired target by 2050. Whilst the developed world should take the lead and encourage technology transfer and collaboration with developing world partners, it is also an issue where the developing and emerging economies can and must make a significant contribution.”

Environmentalists will no doubt agree that a low-carbon development path must be found. But not everyone will concur with the scientists’ proposed solutions. Take CCS, for example. It is still a largely untested technology and could prove a risky wager. So far, it appears to be prohibitively energy-intensive, and some campaigners even call it a dangerous distraction, instead favouring advances in renewable sources and greater energy efficiency.

On chinadialogue we’re asking: what would you say to the G8 leaders? What recommendations would you make to reduce the impacts and the extent of global warming? Which suggestions would you keep – and which would go straight in the bin? Leave your comments and suggestions on the forum.


Sam Geall is deputy editor of chinadialogue

Homepage photo by Richard Brand

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Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous



该评论由Stacy Xu 翻译

What I would tell the G8

I would tell the G8 to get serious and set a global stabilisation target - the lower the better. Does anyone really believe they are strong enough to do this though?

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous


他们到现在当然没有显示出他们已经全力以赴了。感觉它们好像由于忧虑经济将出现下滑而畏首畏尾。讽刺和可悲的是,一些环保议程也由于关于石油价格的讨论而备受阻滞。高油价当然会提升效率,并且促进他们对气候变化问题作出严肃认真的行动和措施,而不是继续拖延时间,久久不付诸实践,让我们共同的星球岌岌可危。该评论由Zheng Shen翻译

Re: What I would tell the G8

They certainly haven't shown the strength so far. It feels like they've been blown off course by worries about the economic downturn. What is tragic and perhaps ironic is that they have also been impeded by discussions about the oil price. Surely you would think the high price of oil is a reason to boost efficiency and take serious action on climate, rather than postpone action and endanger the very existence of our planet.

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous



global food prices

In the short-term don't you think the G8 are right to be concerned primarily with global food prices, given that people face an immediate risk of starvation? It happens that an increase in global oil prices is not unconnected to an increase in the price of food. Failed attempts to combat climate change, in the form of subsidies for biofuels, have also made the situation worse.

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous


本评论由Zheng Shen翻译

privilege and responsibility

The power you (we in the West) have comes alongside a responsibility, certainly for historical emissions (that's the "common but differentiated responsibilities bit from the Convention, yes). So the west needs to lead a low-carbon revolution, spread the technology and the capacity, make sure the Millennium Development Goals are achieved, not deferred. To show seriousness, deep domestic cuts before carbon trading. (not instead of, just before). Stop spending money on useless nuclear weapons etc and spend the real money on clean tech, now.
A fair deal for the developing/majority world will mean major dislocation (some improvement, in some sectors) for the West.
If political and cultural leaders don't start educating their electorates about the urgent need for this dislocation/preference for the poor, then no matter what wonderful deal gets signed at Copenhagen, it won't be ratified and enforced. Leading to policy failure, leading to higher still emissions. Leading to...??

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous


美国总统布什出席八国高峰会,明显只是为了阻挠所有对气候变化有建设性的进展。他提到带领全球迈向全球交易。请帮帮忙,他已经挡在路上七年了 -- 所有人正在等他走开。
此评论由Meg Cheng翻译

tell them not to listen to Bush

George Bush turned up at G8 apparently only to prevent any useful progress being made on climate change. He talks about leading the world to a global deal. Do me a favour. He has stood in the way of any progress for seven years -- everyone is waiting for him to leave.

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous



Can the G8 REALLY hear our voices?

This is a ridiculous subject. Kyoto Protocol is no more than a game set by the developed countries to fool the developing ones. The so-called route map of Bali Island and post-Kyoto era is but a framework now.

At the moment, European countries have already achieved a dynamic balance whose need for energy no longer increases absolutely. Thus they are willing to retain and ensure the stability and safety of the energy supply.

I think the oil price should keep soaring. The study on economy and energy will focus on the solar energy and bio-energy only when the oil price is high enough. And the high price of oil could make the price of these kinds of energy more competitive in the market.

The western countries are not planning on spending a lot on this direction-turning. Instead, they are pointing figures at the threat from the developing countries in the market economy. This is simply unacceptable. In a free market, the price is the best mediator. We should make full use of it, rather than whining about the political issues. It’s a more direct solution to the damage that the global climate change brings to human.

What the developed countries need to learn is that in terms of value in economic system, the recourse and environment of the developing countries are as important as theirs. Or, they should be aware that it will be their territory that the rising sea level floods the most. And the skin cancer caused by the ozone layer holes is costing them more money than any other country in the world.
(Translated by Zheng Shen)