Ist dem G8-Gipfel der Durchbruch gelungen?

G8: Was it a breakthrough?

Watching the decision makers that pretend to save our planet often reminds me of my own successful self-betrayal regarding the planning of my Master’s thesis: As long as the goal lies far ahead in our future, it is often much easier to verbally commit to it – or, as a start, accept its necessity.

To acknowledge every single step that it might take on the way to implement those lofty goals is often much more difficult, as planning those steps takes away the fuzziness and makes it easier for others – and ourselves – to hold us accountable.

When trying to re-immerse myself in the current negotiations and the most recent G8-summit in L’Aquila, I just realized how quickly time passes and how much has already happened since Bonn without me noticing. To me, it’s another evidence of how difficult it must be for every single citizen of our respective countries to follow the negotiations, let alone the assumed consequences of those decisions made.

Anyway: To get back in the game, I gave Christoph Bals, political director of the German Climate-NGO “Germanwatch” a call and asked him for a personal assessment of the current state of affairs. I had met Christoph in Bonn and knew that he was not only very competent and experienced, but also more than willing to help us “trackers stay on track” and get those diplomatic statements right.

“Well, Christoph”, I said, “what shall I think about L’Aquila? Is it a breakthrough – as many called it – or is it just another window-dressing?”

To give you some idea: At the G8 summit in L’Aquila, Italy, the political leaders of the “Group of Eight” came together to – among other issues – address Climate Change and send a strong politcal message in view of the UNFCC Conference in Copenhagen in December. The big hopes and expectations lay especially on the new US-Administration, as Barack Obama had articulately announced that he would push forward a new approach to the challenges ahead.

And indeed: The outcome of this years’ G8 summit saw all the industralised and emerging market economies, including the US, Russia, Japan, Australia, Canada, but also China, India and Brazil recognise the scientific view on the need to keep global temperature rise below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

More than that, they have even agreed on a global long-term goal of reducing global emissions by at least 50% by 2050 and, as part of this, on an 80% or more reduction goal for developed countries by 2050. Interestingly enough, it is the term “or more” that is, according to my sources, the outcome of a shift in US politics. What might look like two tiny words gives leeway to further negotiations in case, 80% should turn out not to be enough.

Believe it or not: Having witnessed two UN General Debates myself, I am pretty sure that the use of those fuzzy terms is well-planned and by no means coincidental.

However, the G8 and MEF (Major Economies Forum) also agreed on another very unclear goal: On the need for significant mid-term targets consistent with the long term goals and for global emissions to reach their peak “as soon as possible”.

According to Germanwatch, this peak needs to be reached between 2013 and 2017 in order to have a realistic chance to stay below the 2 degrees Celsius – in case the G8 and MEF leaders are unable or unwilling to agree upon a mid-term goal for these years, everything else remains paying lip service.

Regarding the financing of adaptation and mitigation, there have been no concrete proposals on the table. However, Obama stressed that the next G20 summit in Pittsburgh this year (24-25th September 2009) shall focus on how to finance the steps agreed upon in L’Aquila and hopefully Copenhagen.

Well, as I said at the outset of this post: To agree on the necessity of something and to plan a long-term goal can be a first step on the way you need to take to actually get there. To be honest: It is more than I expected bearing in mind the destructive atmosphere in Heiligendamm 2008.

Well,.. back to work. I think, I should write my thesis as soon as possible.

You can find the German version of this blogpost on my blog