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Where do we go after Kyoto?
Last week world leaders gathered at the G8 Summit in Germany, where the issue of tackling climate change was at the very top of the international agenda. With the Kyoto Protocol due to end in 2012, one of the most heavily debated topics was how to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the longer term.
Led by Germany, and in line with the current position of the UK government, one of the most ambitious targets included halving current carbon emissions by 2050 with a view to keeping global warming down to no more than 2°C. But, when there are divisions even within the G8, how achievable is this?
Although all the leaders are united in their aim of “taking strong and early action to tackle climate change”, George Bush has insisted that the US won’t agree to any specific targets unless other major polluters, pointing the finger squarely at China and India, make an equally binding commitment.
Mutiny in the ranks? Or a clear headed ultimatum that we need to work in partnership if we are to have any significant impact in tackling climate change?
Certainly Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has expressed his disappointment with the US, saying that’s it’s difficult to meet targets if “your major partner does not have those targets too.”
It seems to be generally accepted that we are all going to have to make some major changes in the way we operate if we are to meet the environmental challenges of the future, and this includes looking beyond our own immediate spheres of influence.
As Tony Blair said, referring to the ‘post-Kyoto’ agreement, “there isn’t going to be an agreement until its got America and China in it.” So the word ‘partnership’ appears to be key here.
Although at the end of the summit German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that the G8 had established a “clear mandate” on tackling climate change, specific next steps are rather less clear. Quite what the post-Kyoto agreement involves, nobody seems to know, other than the same general acceptance that we need to cut carbon emissions.
We have five more years of Kyoto, but at the end of it will we really see any definite changes? And where do we go from there? Whatever the government decides, it seems that we have reached a point where decisive action is finally a must if our global economy is to remain competitive into the future.