As has been the case for the past few years, climate change policy experts have closely watched the declarations coming out of this week’s G-8 Summit, looking for signs regarding the direction that negotiations might take later in the year.
Looking at the outcome statements from the past three G-8 Summits, some evolution can be seen in the leaders’ approach to climate change targets. Climate was one of three issues focused on at the G-8 Summit in Heiligendamm, Germany, at the 6-8 June 2007 meeting, and the Chair’s Summary from that meeting indicates that the G-8 leaders agreed to “consider seriously the decisions made by the European Union, Canada and Japan which include at least a halving of global emissions by 2050.” In 2008, the G-8 met from 7-9 July in Toyako, on the island of Hokkaido, Japan, and the leaders agreed to “consider and adopt… the goal of achieving at least 50% reduction of global emissions by 2050.” And this past week, leaders of the G-8 industrialized countries gathered in L’Aquila, Italy, from 8-10 July 2009, during which they recognized “the broad scientific view that the increase in global average temperature above pre-industrial levels ought not to exceed 2°C” and added to the previous two-years’ discussions of targets: they reiterate their “willingness to share with all countries the goal of achieving at least a 50% reduction of global emissions by 2050”; they “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”; and they indicate they “will undertake robust aggregate and individual mid-term reductions.” However, a parallel declaration issued by the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, which includes the leaders of major developing countries as well as developed countries, did not include the same language on emissions targets.
Closely tracking the G-8 Summit, the fifth annual informal discussion on climate change by key ministers met in Ilulissat, Greenland, from 30 June-3 July 2009. Like the previous two meetings in this series, which convened in Riksgränsen, Sweden, from 11-14 June 2007, and in El Calafate, Patagonia, Argentina, from 15-18 September 2008, the Greenland Dialogue ended with a Chair’s Summary that contained similar conclusions to the G-8 statement. The real value of this series of dialogues is in its informal nature. The dialogues are not meant to be a venue for announcing new commitments, but rather to provide political guidance to the climate change negotiations and represent one in a series of processes that are expected to contribute political momentum in the run up to Copenhagen.
The months between the G-8 Summit and the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change will host several additional negotiating sessions, during which climate change policy experts will be watching for signs of the types of commitments and trade-offs governments might adopt in Copenhagen. Additional informal meetings will also convene, to provide negotiators the opportunity to assess their options and build relationships with their counterparts. We will be tracking all of the developments as the many dialogues, summits and negotiations converge on Copenhagen.