The latest news from the G8 Summit meetings in Heiligendamm, Germany is that leaders of G8 nations have agreed to a ‘compromise deal’ to tackle climate change. According to the BBC, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that
’nations have agreed that CO2 emissions must first be stopped and then followed by substantial reductions.’
Although Merkel pushed for a mandatory 50% slash in carbon emissions by mid century, no specific emissions reductions targets have been agreed. Leaders have purportedly said they will negotiate the successor to the Kyoto Protocol within a UN framework. If true, this in itself would be an achievement, as the US recently announced its refusal to participate in global post-2012 negotiations scheduled for the end of the year. Without a consensus on mandatory global emissions reductions, however, today’s compromise deal may be worth little. The need for effective emissions caps is simply the first of numerous contentious issues to be hammered out in determining a global post-Kyoto pact, as reported by Amanda Leigh Haag on Nature Reports: Climate Change, launched today.
Launching in the midst of the G8 climate talks, the site has kicked off with a strong focus on climate policy, emissions reductions, carbon storage and offsetting, as well as covering climate science in research highlights, news and views and in the Journal Club. In our main feature, Amanda takes an in-depth looks at how the Kyoto Protocol has fared thus far – its major triumphs and downfalls. Perhaps the most prominent disappointments have been the failure of some nations to meet what seemed to be modest emissions reduction targets at the outset, and the backtracking of the US on their commitments in 2001. As well as bringing the US back on board, key issues beyond 2012 will include persuading countries such China, India and Brazil to take bold steps to reduce emissions in the next phase, assisting developing nations to adapt to climate change, and avoiding further deforestation, to name but a few.
While some believe that a global extension of the European Trading Scheme is what is needed for mandatory and aggressive reduction of emissions, others are not convinced. In a Commentary, also published today on Nature Reports: Climate Change, Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, argues against ‘an unwieldy global emissions permit system that would be virtually impossible to negotiate and even harder to police’. Yet, despite the considerable global efforts needed to reduce emissions, avoiding dangerous climate change is both practically and economically achievable, says Sachs, if we use a targeted approach aimed at specific sectors.
Sachs urges society to use a ‘workable strategy’ to mitigate climate change, rather than arguing endlessly about perfect efficiency and perfect justice in controlling carbon emissions. While the absolute costs of global emissions abatement are likely to be significant –on the order of $2 trillion per year by 2050 or at most 1% of the world’s income – they will be manageable within a much larger and richer world economy, he maintains. He warns that
‘the longer the world waits to begin serious emissions abatement, the more rapid — and more costly — the transition to a low-emissions global regime will be.’
What is certain is that the compromise deal reached today needs a solid and workable strategy behind it, in whatever form that takes, in order to reduce increasing global levels of greenhouse gases. For more on this, read the above Feature and Commentary for free on Nature Reports: Climate Change. View our homepage and current issue for further content and more about the site. Join in the discussions and let us know what you think!
Nature Reports: Climate Change