G8 leaders have come out with a land mark climate change agreement on the back of meetings in L’Aquila in Italy (read the full communiqué here).

Is this good news? In a word, yes.

Is it jump for joy and do an embarrassing dance kinda news? In another word, no.

Why? Well, the answer lies in the numbers. 

We need the climate numbers to add up in order to safe guard our future

We need the climate numbers to add up in order to safe guard our future

First things first, 2 degrees Celcius

To save you from reading through the forty page communiqué released by the G8 this morning, I can tell you now that point 65 says, and I quote:  “We recognise the broad scientific view that the increase in global average temperature above preindustrial 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… 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.

 What does all of this mean?

 The G8 commitment to keeping global warming below 2 degrees is positive, and it’s a good step in the right direction that they have set longer term targets of 80% by 2050 for developed countries

 BUT (yes it’s a big but)

 Let’s look at the second key number in this equation, 2050

 Forward planning is good – my accountant told me so – but 2050 is too far off to matter, poor people are being hit by the impacts of climate change today. Without short term targets for developed countries there’s no way we can prevent catastrophic climate change. The best chance we have to avoid the most disastrous impacts of climate change is if we limit warming to as far below 2 degrees Celsius as possible, to achieve this, we need strong action now. Wealthy, polluting countries urgently need to set themselves short term targets of at least 40% by 2020.  Without short term targets for developed countries there’s no way we can prevent catastrophic climate change

 AND (yes, more capitals)

 Let’s go back to point 65 again, “we reiterate our willingness to share with all countries the goal of achieving at least a 50% reduction of global emissions by 2050”

Asking developing countries to cut their emissions by 50% by 2050 will require wealthy countries, like Australia, to put money on the table to help poor countries to adapt to the killer effects of climate change and to stop things getting any worse. We need at least $187 billion each year, and Australia’s contribution should be $4.3bn per year. We will all benefit from developing countries reducing their emissions, but they can’t afford to do it on their own.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has led the way by recognising the scale of what is needed, and there has been reports that our Prime Minister Rudd supports Brown’s proposal, we need to see all wealthy developed countries follow Brown’s lead. Unless we get significant funding on the table there will be no deal in Copenhagen in December.

Lastly, the number 8: A quick search on my friend Wikipedia revealed to me that “8 is the number of building, and in some theories, also the number of destruction” make of that what you will… but what is important to realise when talking about the G8 is that they are exactly what their name says, a group of 8 countries. Sure, they are quite wealthy countries, some with very large populations, but they cannot make decisions on behalf of all of the countries of the world. The momentum for climate action from the G8 needs to carry over into the United Nations climate change negotiation process, where more than two hundred of the world’s countries are represented.

As we move toward the MEF (Major Economies Meeting) happening tomorrow in Italy I would love to hear your thoughts on the numbers.

* Is a limit of 2 degrees Celsius enough?

* Is 2050 too far off to be basing targets on?

* And more importantly, as a non G8 member, what should Australia’s role be in all of this?

So please, add your thoughts and comments to this blog.

Oltre e fuori (that’s Italian for over and out), Cara

Photo source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/missyho/140387211/

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