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G8 climate goals a distant mirage

By Paul Taylor
July 9, 2009

So the planet is saved after all. The leaders of the world’s eight biggest industrialised nations have embraced the goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2050, and the need for developed countries to cut their own emissions by 80 percent by the same date from their 1990 levels.

Before you crack open the low-carbonated champagne, consider the weasel wording of the Group of Eight summit communique:

We recognise the broad scientific view that the increase in global average temperature above pre-industrial levels ought not to exceed 2°C. Because this global challenge can only be met by a global response, we reiterate our willingness to share with all countries the goal of achieving at least a 50% reduction of global emissions by 2050, recognising that this implies that global emissions need to peak as soon as possible and decline thereafter. As part of this, we also support a goal of developed countries reducing emissions of greenhouse gases in aggregate by 80% or more by 2050 compared to 1990 or more recent years. Consistent with this ambitious long-term objective, we will undertake robust aggregate and individual mid-term reductions, taking into account that baselines may vary and that efforts need to be comparable. Similarly, major emerging economies need to undertake quantifiable actions to collectively reduce emissions significantly below business-as-usual by a specified year.

Are such carefully-hedged words worth the paper they are printed on? What are these politicians committing themselves to do during their own term of office? Most will be dead and buried by 2050.

Imagine for a moment that world leaders meeting in 1909 had adopted emissions targets to be met by 2050. How likely would those have been to be achieved? Might not one or two minor developments in the intervening years have rendered them meaningless – the mass production of automobiles, the advent of air travel, two world wars, the rise of communism and of fascism?

It’s easy to be cynical. But do such grand, long-range targets serve any purpose other than to manufacture media headlines? The answer is probably “yes”. While 2050 is too distant a horizon to be operational today, the goal does give governments a framework for public policy.

The fact that the United States under President Barack Obama signed up to these targets, and to the objective of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above the temperature in pre-industrial times should force deep cuts in coming years. Setting specific, binding targets for 2020 would be more useful. But no government was likely to show its hand ahead of crucial U.N. climate change negotiations in Copenhagen in December. 

What matters most now is whether the United States and China can work out a deal on curbing their emissions that would lay the groundwork for a global understanding later this year.




Russian agencies, quoting the government’s press service, said Putin treated Obama to black caviar with sour cream, smoked beluga with pancakes and tea made in the traditional Russian samovar, a big coal-fired kettle. kObama/idUSTRE56657E20090707 mService_2_MOLT/idUSTRE5661Q520090707

IUCN classifies the beluga as Endangered. It is a protected species listed in appendix III of the Bern Convention and its trade is restricted under CITES appendix II. The Mediterranean population is strongly protected under appendix II of the Bern Convention, prohibiting any intentional killing of these fish.

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service has banned imports of Beluga Caviar and other beluga products from the Caspian Sea since October 6, 2005.

Posted by xinunus | Report as abusive

The cap and tax scam needs to be killed. In no way should the United States sign on to the Copenhagen Accord and provide taxing authority to foreign nations over US citizens.

Luckily Obama cannot sign any foreign treaties without the approval of the Senate.

Posted by Pete | Report as abusive

Yes there is no doubt that emission reduction could be much simpler!

Sufficient first phase 2020/2030 emission reduction is achieved by acting on ELECTRICITY generation (coal, gas) and TRANSPORT (mainly automobiles) alone, since these 2 sectors typically (as in the USA) account for 80% of greenhouse gas emissions.

The focus on electricity and transport gives several advantages – apart from lowering CO2 emissions:

1. Local environmental benefit from less pollution of sulphur and all else that’s in the emissions, regardless of the less certain or immediate global benefit from CO2 reduction.

2. Electricity supply alternatives which together with improved grid distribution gives better competition and keeps down electricity bills for consumers.

3. Transport alternatives (using electricity, hydrogen and other energy sources), which give variety of choice and competition advantages for consumers, additionally reducing the dependency on oil imports.

4. No trade problems: Unlike Cap and Trade, which involves cement, steel and other industries having to face imports from unregulated countries, the here suggested electricity and transport changes are not just more limited, but also largely local. Since there is little competition between say utility companies internationally, “best practice” results can be compared and shared.

Funding and Impact
Equity and long term loan finance can be used: Long term industrial loans from financial institutions, particularly if federal/state guaranteed, give low yearly interest repayments and lessen the effect on electricity bills or transport cost.

Compare with
today’s all-encompassing Cap and Trade (emission trading) suggestions, with unpredictability, expense, and needless disruption from normal business practice on one hand, or unnecessary profiteering from free allowance handouts with little actual emission reduction on the other hand – together with extensive -and unnecessary- regulation on what people can or can’t buy and use.

Understanding why proposed Cap and Trade is bad, in USA and elsewhere
Basic Idea — Offsets — Tree Planting — Manufacture Shift — Fair Trade — Surreal Market — Real Market — Allowances: Auctions + Hand-Outs — Allowance Trading — Companies: Business Stability + Business Cost — In Conclusion

The Way Forward
Introduction — Funding and Impact —No Energy Efficiency Regulation — A New Electric World
Electricity Generation — Distribution
Transport Power Generation — Regulation — Taxation


The leaders of the United States, China and India have got to show resolute willingness to comply with these laudable aims to reduce green-house gases by 2050. We have an undeniable responsibility towards future generations. The framework for public policy is a blue-print for nations which hopefully will reduce pollution levels significantly even if targets are not reached.


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