Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Climate Change Pushed Off the G8 Agenda in June 2013

The crisis in Syria has pushed climate change off the G8 agenda. Although world leaders at the G8 summit in Lough Erne, Ireland were supposed to address climate change at the June meeting, but this was preempted by events in Syria.

The preceding G8 meeting in April delivered a weak communique on climate change that articulated support for the UNFCCC climate talks and indicated that climate risk would be discussed at the Lough Erne meeting in June. Climate change is one of five priorities for the UK’s G8 presidency.

In March France and Germany indicated that they wanted climate change to be a priority issue at the Lough Erne meetings, but this was rejected. Instead world leaders focused on Syria, transparency and tax reform.

French President Hollande, writing in the Huffington Post last week, said: “It is the responsibility of the international community as a whole to ensure the success of the negotiations. The G8 must do its part and give a strong political impetus to curb carbon emissions.”

“The economic community and world leaders need to understand what the World Bank and the OECD are saying, that dealing with climate change is not an environmental issue. It’s about preparing your economy for the future,” the European climate action commissioner Connie Hedegaard told the BBC.

Friends of the Earth’s executive director Andy Atkins said, "G8 policies are not only failing to tackle major international crises like climate change, world hunger and the trashing of our natural resources; they often make them worse...The world’s richest nations must stop pursuing economic growth at any cost and build economies that allow us all to live sustainably and equitably within the planet’s limited resources,”

To make matters worse Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper used the meeting as an opportunity to push for the expansion of the tar sands through his advocacy in support of Keystone XL pipeline.

The news is not all bad as the focus on ending tax evasion and boosting transparency has important implications for sustainable development. Further, the fact that G8 leaders managed to defy expectations and secure unanimous agreement on Syria, offers a glimmer of hope that they will also be able to build a consensus on climate change this fall.

© 2013, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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