Archived press release
G8 summit media briefing

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - Climate change will be at the top of the agenda when leaders of the G8 nations meet at Gleneagles in Scotland later this summer (6-8 July). Climate change is the biggest threat facing our planet. We are already seeing the effects - with devastating consequences. And with the growing evidence of human induced climate change, the dangers of its impacts becoming more widely known and the public becoming increasingly alarmed, it is clearly the time for action.

UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who will chair the meeting of the world's richest nations, wants international agreement to tackle an issue that he has described as "so far-reaching in its impact and irreversible in its destructive power, that it alters radically human existence" [1].

The scientific community is also concerned. On 7 June the science academies of the G8 nations issued a joint statement calling for "prompt action" by the world's major economies [2]. Industry too is worried. The World Economic Forum issued a statement in June from the heads of twenty-four global companies supporting Tony Blair's efforts on climate change and calling for substantial efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions [3].

G8 countries are responsible for 65 per cent of historical global emissions. These countries must take action to redress the balance by making significant cuts in their current greenhouse gas emissions. Currently G8 nations represent just 13 per cent of the world's population, but account for 45 per cent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.

Crucially, the United States must wake up to the reality of climate change and start taking action to cut its emissions - rather than scuppering international efforts to tackle the problem. The US is the world's largest polluter, responsible for a quarter of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, despite having only around four per cent of the world's population. The US administration has refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol, on the premise that signing would damage their economy and that developing countries were not participating.

Recently leaked drafts of a communiqué to be issued after the G8 summit clearly highlight the US administration's watering down of proposals to combat climate change. The most recent draft, dated 14 June, was considerably weaker than a previous version, indicating efforts to accommodate the US government's position. The draft communiqué has no targets or timetable for action and the basic scientific understanding and warnings of climate change have been called into question. [4].

Friends of the Earth welcomes the fact that Tony Blair has placed climate change at the top of the agenda at the G8 summit, but urgent action is needed.

Friends of the Earth wants to see commitments from the G8 leaders in the following areas:
  1. Global average temperatures must not be allowed to rise two degree centigrade higher than pre-industrial levels .

    Dangerous climate change is already being felt in some parts of the world, and as greenhouse gas emissions increase, this is likely to get worse. The Third Assessment Report (TAR) [5] from 2001 provides substantial information on the expected impacts from different levels of future warming. Warming above 1-2 degrees is predicted to result in rapidly escalating damages, the extent of which is qualitatively different from lower temperatures. The recommendations of a major international scientific conference in Exeter (UK) earlier this year builds on these findings [6]. To minimise the risks of warming above two degrees centigrade global greenhouse gas emissions need to peak and decline within the next 10-15 years [7].

  2. An agreement by G8 nations for specific, substantial and timetabled cuts in their domestic emissions of greenhouse gases.

    G8 leaders must commit themselves to strong future actions to combat climate change. These should include increased efforts to meet Kyoto targets, and a clear signal that their commitments will increase after 2012 (when the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol is due to end). Industry already recognises the economic benefits in acting first on climate change and the gains to be had in investing in low carbon technology. The UK should take the lead by adopting year on year annual emission reductions [8]

  3. An agreement that offers innovative and substantial financing mechanisms to increase and diversify the energy mix. This must include more renewable energy and greater efforts towards energy efficiency.

    Broad economic instruments such as mandatory cap and trade need to run alongside specific support mechanisms for renewable energy and demand reduction.There are clear funding streams from international institutions and agencies which, with a strong steer from governments, can divert greater financial support to these proven technologies across the developing world. These agencies can only act under strong instruction from G8 leaders - with clear targets and timetables. G8 countries must stop promoting fossil fuel extraction in developing nations through international financial institutions such as the World Bank and export credit agencies and immediately phase-in public finance for sustainable clean energy.

    Urgent assistance is needed for those developing countries already facing the devastating effects of climate change.

    These are countries which have done nothing to contribute to the current threat of climate change. Much is already understood on how these countries will be affected. Money and increased support must be given now. It is not necessary to wait years for more research on climate change before investing in disaster risk reduction. G8 countries must offer substantial new funds to address the needs of adaptation and vulnerability to climate change in these countries and integrate climate into their development aid programmes.

Friends of the Earth International's vice-chair, Tony Juniper, said:

"It's time that the world's richest nations woke up to the catastrophic threat posed by climate change. G8 countries have benefited most from burning fossil fuels, they must now take the lead in tackling the problem. The alarm bells are ringing, unless we take urgent action the lives and livelihoods of millions of people across the planet will be in jeopardy."

Notes

1. Speech by Tony Blair, 14 September 2004

2. www.royalsoc.ac.uk/news.asp?id=3226

3. www.weforum.org/pdf/g8_climatechange.pdf (PDF)

4. G8 Summit: Anger At New Leaked Document

5.www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/vol4/english/index.htm

6. www.stabilisation2005.com/

7. An average of two degrees could mean up to five or six degrees centigrade increase in some parts of the world. Just 2-3 degrees centigrade of warming could mean up to 300 million more people will be at risk of malaria, three billion will face water shortages and 100 million people will be more at risk from coastal flooding. We are already 0.6C higher now than pre-industrial levels. The IPCC has found that the majority of warming over the last fifty years has been human induced - confirming the major cause of the problem

8. Friends of the Earth has launched The Big Ask campaign, which challenges the UK Government to bring in a new climate change law. The law would force the Government to take responsibility for the UK's contribution to global warming by reducing carbon dioxide emissions by three per cent every year. More information at www.thebigask.com

9. The Working Group on Climate and Development, which Friends of the Earth is an active member of have recently released their second report, `Africa - Up in Smoke?' to coincide with the G8 summit. It recommends that international efforts to combat poverty in Africa and other parts of the developing world can only be effective when combined with urgent global action on climate change. The pdf of the report is available at:

www.foe.co.uk/resource/reports/africa_up_in_smoke.pdf (PDF)

The first report, `Up in Smoke?' released last October is also available here:
www.foe.co.uk/resource/reports/up_in_smoke.pdf

FRIENDS OF THE EARTH AND G8 MEDIA EVENTS

Saturday 2 July 11am-5pm

EDINBURGH: Make Poverty History March and Rally

Friends of the Earth is a member of Make Poverty History and is encouraging supporters to take part. Friends of the Earth will take part to promote the call for climate justice. Friends of the Earth International chair, Meena Raman will speak at the rally.

Sunday 3 July 10am-9pm

EDINBURGH: Alternative G8 summit events: Speakers from around the world will discuss alternatives to the G8 in venues around Edinburgh. www.g8alternatives.org.uk

Friends of the Earth International chair, Meena Raman (Corporate globalization, privatization and climate justice), will speak at the Queens Hall in the morning.

Friends of the Earth is co-organising a free counter-event G8: Corporate Dream - Global Nightmare at the Assembly Hall www.corporateg8.org Nnimmo Bassey, FoE Nigeria (Shell in Nigeria) and Friends of the Earth International chair, Meena Raman will be speaking.

Tatiana Roa, FoEI/FoE Colombia (venue tbc) will speak on climate justice.

Tuesday 5 July

EDINBURGH (9:30-12noon): Global warming 8 summit at Our Dynamic Earth, Holyrood Road. Nnimmo Bassey, FoE Nigeria and Tatiana Roa, FoEI/FoE Colombia will speak on their experiences of climate change in their countries.

GRANGEMOUTH (1pm-3pm): Friends of the Earth/ People & Planet Climate Justice Action - calling attention to the corporate beneficiaries of climate change in Scotland's oil industry.

Wednesday 6 July

Available on website: New Friends of the Earth International report on people-led alternatives to institutional solutions to poverty alleviation.

Thursday 7 July

EDINBURGH and all around the World: Climate Alarm. At 13:45 (local time) groups will sound alarms to highlight the injustice of G8 nations accounting for 45 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions, with only 13 per cent of world population. Friends of the Earth will set off an alarm outside the summit and at the same time, people across Scotland, the UK and the world will set off sirens, sound alarms and ring bells. St Paul's Cathedral in central London will also ring its bells. Actions also in Germany, Spain, USA, Canada, Italy, France. www.climatealarm.org

Friday 8 July

Final day of G8 - final press release/statement


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Published by Friends of the Earth Trust