Rhein on Energy and Climate

PM Gordon Brown has decided to add climate change to the already overcharged agenda of the G 20 summit meeting in London April 2nd.

That is a wise and courageous decision considering the poor state of preparation of the International Climate Conference to be held in December in Copenhagen.

Indeed, the G 20 countries account for some 80 percent of global green house gas emissions. What they decide and how effectively they act will determine the earth’s climate during the decades to come. The outcome of the Copenhagen Conference will therefore crucially depend on the instructions the 20 heads of government assembled in London will give to their climate policy negotiators in the coming months.

The global scientific community is unanimous in warning the political establishment that to prevent future climate catastrophe humanity will have to reduce its green house gas emissions, above all C02, by 50 percent below 1990 levels before the middle of the century. To reach that aim global emissions should stabilise as early as 2020.

The EU is the only part of the world to have started contributing its share to that end. It will reduce its emissions by 20 percent before 2020 and is ready to a 30 percent reduction in case of an effective international agreement.

It therefore needs to convince 17 prime ministers from other parts of the world to do likewise. The USA, the second biggest emitter, has signalled its readiness to take effective measures. China, the biggest emitter, is increasingly realising that climate change will negatively affect its future well-being. It might therefore be more open to participate in the necessary international climate efforts.

But Russia, which had tried to block any discussion on climate issues, the OPEC countries, Canada and Australia are far from realising the seriousness of the global climate challenge.

Two hours of discussion on climate policy in London cannot produce miracles. At best, the 20 leaders will go home with the feeling that each of them bears a heavy responsibility for the future world climate. This should induce them to introduce appropriate measures for reducing the consumption of fossil energy.

Ideally, the conclusions from the G 20 meeting in London should read as follows:

1. The G 20 are determined to achieve a successful outcome of the Copenhagen Climate Conference.

2. They recognise the need for humanity reducing green house gas emissions by at least 50 percent before the middle of the century.

3. They accept that the main responsibility for addressing climate change lies on their shoulders, as they account for about 80 percent of global emissions.

4. They are determined to act accordingly and develop a carbon-free energy supply before the end of the century.

5. The developed G 20 countries are prepared to reduce their emissions by 80 percent before 2050 and by 30 percent before 2020.

6. The emerging G 20 countries will aim at stabilising their emissions by 2020 and reducing them substantially thereafter, as alternative low-cost technologies will become available.

7. All G 20 countries commit to stop subsidising fossil energies as a matter of priority.

8. All G 20 leaders will instruct their energy ministers to negotiate a mutually acceptable policy package, ready for political approval before the end of 2009, along these guidelines.

Brussels, 15.03. 09 Eberhard Rhein

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