Climate choreography for the G8

The Government has set out two priorities - climate change and Africa - for its presidency of the G8, the grouping of leading industrialised countries. The group's members account for over 65% of global GDP and 47% of CO2 emissions.

On climate change, the UK's aims are to:

  • Build a solid foundation on the science - principally through February's conference in Exeter (see main article).

  • Reach agreement on how to speed up the development and implementation of low carbon technologies.

  • Engage countries with growing energy needs, notably China and India.

    Underlying these stated aims is another crucially important, goal - encouraging the USA to re-engage with the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

    In late January, Prime Minister Tony Blair set out his stall in a speech to the World Economic Forum in Davos. In doing so, he came in for criticism from environmentalists for bending too far in his bid to seduce the Bush administration.

    For example, Mr Blair acknowledged that the evidence of climate change "is still disputed". He expressed his strong support for the Kyoto Protocol - but said he "understood" those who do not, and warned against "grandstanding".

    "Political leaders worry they are being asked to take unacceptable falls in economic growth and living standards to tackle climate change," Mr Blair said. "My view is that if we put forward...something which involves drastic cuts in growth or standards of living, it matters not how justified it is, it simply won't be agreed to. But fortunately that need not be the case."

    In March, the UK will host a roundtable of energy and environment Ministers from around 20 countries with significant energy needs. The aim is to address the challenge of sustainable and secure energy supplies to 2050 in the context of a lower carbon world.

    March will also see a meeting of G8 environment and development Ministers in Derbyshire, which will consider climate change impacts in Africa.

    In May, the new UK Energy Research Centre will host a meeting of research institutions to improve collaboration on low-carbon technologies.

    The aspiration is that a break in the diplomatic impasse may be in the frame by the Gleneagles summit of G8 leaders in July.

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