The G8 and MEF Communique: "A mixed bag"

9 July 2009

World leaders gathered in L'Aquila for the G8 summit have maintained momentum towards a new global deal on climate change but shown that there is still a lot of work to be done before developed and developing countries can reach consensus on an ambitious new low carbon path for the world economy.

As is often the case with summit statements, the communiques issued by the G8 yesterday and Major Economies Forum today were full of grand aspirations but offered little of the detail that is now so urgently needed, with less than six months before governments are due to agree a new global deal on climate change in Copenhagen this December.

On the plus side, the G8 communique demonstrated the importance that heads of government attach to climate change, with 12 pages dedicated to the issue. This was further reflected in key elements of the communique, including:

  • Agreement for the first time on a goal to keep global temperature rise within 2 degrees of pre-industrial levels - the point at which many scientists believe the impacts of climate change will become irreversible
  • A reaffirmation of the need to cut global emissions by at least half from current levels
  • A commitment to cut industrialized countries' emissions by 80%
  • Recognition of the need to speed up the deployment of existing low carbon technologies such as energy efficiency and renewables, as recommended by Monday's Breaking The Climate Deadlock report "Technology for a Low Carbon Future"
  • Agreement on the need to expand and link domestic and regional carbon markets, including a reformed CDM

The MEF communique meanwhile gave the lie to the substantial differences that still exist between rich and poor countries. Although MEF leaders endorsed the 2 degree goal contained in the G8 communique and stated that they "resolve to spare no effort to reach agreement in Copenhagen", their communique was significantly watered down from drafts that had been circulating before the Summit.

There was no mention of the 50% global emission reduction target for 2050 or any more detail on the 2020 targets that will give businesses the certainty they need to start investing on the scale necessary in low carbon technologies.

This was allegedly because leaders of the large emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil are demanding greater detail on the cuts industrialised countries are prepared to commit to by 2020, and the financing that will be made available to support their own actions, before being willing to sign up to anything more concrete than "actions whose projected effects on emissions represent a meaningful deviation from business as usual in the midterm".

Mark Kenber, The Climate Group's Policy Director, said: "The G8 and MEF have given us a mixed bag of results. On the one hand, the 2 degree commitment is undoubtedly important and shows that there is growing agreement on what the overall goal of climate policy should be. On the other hand, and despite the 80% target adopted by the G8, the more contentious and more important question of targets and financing for 2020 has, once again, been kicked into the long grass. If we are to get the agreement in Copenhagen that we need and to provide a clear framework for private sector investment in the low carbon economy, world leaders will need to confront this well before the December summit."

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