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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Mired in the Mud on the Road to Copenhagen

Air Date: Week of July 10, 2009

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G8 leaders failed to persuade developing countries to halve their emissions by 2050.

The Obama administration's debut at the World Economic Summit ends with little progress made toward a global climate change treaty expected by December in Copenhagen. The G8 agreed for the first time that a global temperature increase beyond 2 degrees Celsius would be dangerous, but didn't set goals that would encourage developing countries, like China and India, to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Host Steve Curwood talks with climate diplomacy expert Jennifer Morgan about how the world can work together to get back on the road to Copenhagen.

Transcript

CURWOOD: It’s Living on Earth, I’m Steve Curwood.

YOUNG: and I’m Jeff Young.

When the leaders of the G8 and major economies got together in Italy, they struck an agreement to prevent average global temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius, that’s about three and a half degrees Fahrenheit. And for the first time the G8 agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

CURWOOD: But the G8 couldn’t agree among themselves on how to reach these goals, nor how to help developing countries decarbonize their growing economies. President Obama pledged to keep climate negotiations moving forward between now and the key meeting in December in Copenhagen.

Obama: Developed countries like my own have a historic responsibility to take the lead. We have the much larger carbon footprint per capita and I know that in the past the United States has sometimes fallen short of meeting our responsibilities, so let me be clear those days are over.

CURWOOD: Climate diplomacy expert Jennifer Morgan is with the environmental think tank E3G and joins us on the line now from Berlin. Tell me, Ms. Morgan, what do developed countries have to do to close the gap with developing ones such as China?


Jennifer Morgan. (Courtesy of Jennifer Morgan)

MORGAN: Well first of all I think that developing countries need to see that this is possible, that we can have economic growth and decarbonizes our economies at the same time. And that means they need to see strong laws in place in developed countries like the United States, Japan and Europe, and those aren’t all out there yet.

So they need to see incredible down payments for the short term, for 2020 from developed countries, and they need to see really pragmatic but very fundamental offers on financial support and on technology transfer. Last week Prime Minister Brown from the United Kingdom put a proposal on the table that would, through a range of public and private financing, gather $100 billion to support developing countries to adapt to climate change. Those types of proposals we need to see many more of.

CURWOOD: $100 billion dollars from the world.

MORGAN: Yes, $100 billion dollars from the world.

CURWOOD: So this was the Obama administration’s first appearance on the world summit’s stage on climate change. How did America do?

MORGAN: Well I think so you a fundamental change from the previous eight years from these G8s on climate change. You see the adoption of a goal that the world, including the United States, has now said, you know, if you go above 3.5 degree increase in temperature it’s too much – the impacts are too much. And that I think is a real fundamental shift. And President Obama was there. He adopted that. And from that perspective, I think, you see just a massive difference in the way that the G8 has approached this problem.

CURWOOD: Still, at this point, it looks like the U.S. Congress is willing to do less than what the European Union says it would like to have for example. So how can President Obama walk that line and still get a credible deal in Copenhagen?


Chinese President Hu Jintao. (Photo: Helen C. Stikkel, Courtesy of the Department of Defense)

MORGAN: I think this is a very challenging issue for President Obama. My hope is that between now and Copenhagen President Obama can work with the American public to show how it’s in American’s national interest to move forward on an ambitious deal in Copenhagen.

CURWOOD: Now this was supposed to be President Obama’s chance to talk with the Chinese President Hu, but of course, Mr. Hu has some civil unrest back home – he had to go home before he really could talk about this at the climate meeting.

MORGAN: Yes, very unfortunate, I think. And I think that took certainly some of the dynamic out of the meeting. But there is a very strong dialogue happening between the U.S. and China right now on climate change and energy and I think they’ve gotta find another time to talk soon.

CURWOOD: Jennifer Morgan, it seems pretty clear what everybody wants in terms of the climate. Nobody wants to go over 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit. The developing countries want the tools to decarbonize. The developing world wants to have a level playing field. What’s the problem with getting to an agreement?

MORGAN: I think fundamentally now it’s a problem of leadership and courage. You have a game of chicken going on, and people not wanting to blink first.


G8 leaders failed to persuade developing countries to halve their emissions by 2050.(Courtesy of the G8)

And I think people need to understand that this is not a zero sum game, that we need leaders to step forward and to take some risks and to have some courage and to lead, not to wait for others to move first before they move, because the time is much too short for those types of chicken games.

CURWOOD: Jennifer Morgan is global climate change director of the environmental think tank E3G. Ms. Morgan thanks for your time.

MORGAN: Thank you very much.

[MUSIC: Martial “Cette Fille” from “Putumayo Presents: Euro Groove” (Putumayo World Music 2008)]

 

Links

Read the G8 statement here.

Read the Union of Concerned Scientists’ statement on this year’s G8 summit.

E3G

 

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