G7 leaders debate climate change, ignore plight of world poor!


 

G7 leaders debate climate change, ignore plight of world poor!

Dr. Abdul Ruff

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The Group of Seven (G7) of western industrialized nations literally controls the world and its resources, most importantly decide they represent the world of today and decide its future course. The G7 comprises Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States. The summit discussed issues ranging from sanctions on Russia to carbon emissions.

The leaders of the G7nations met in Bonn, Germany to debate economic related issues but have failed the world’s poor and missed an opportunity to stand up for the most vulnerable children. International aid agency Oxfam said that although G7 leaders made some progress on the issue of climate change they copped out of delivering any real change for one billion people living in poverty. World Vision in UK, a global children’s charity, said the two-day summit in Bavaria did not deliver on its agenda that could have had an impact for the world’s most vulnerable children, especially those living in conflict.

The main agenda of  G7 was  verbal rhetoric against Russia World leaders warned Russia it would face stepped-up sanctions for its “aggression” in Ukraine, as they wrapped up a G7 meeting also pledging strong action to fight climate change. At a luxury retreat nestled in the picture-perfect Bavarian Alps, the leaders of the most powerful countries also tackled threats to global security posed by Islamist extremism and risks to the world economy from Greece.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, hosting the talks, noted Russia was involved in resolving several other global crises and called for their “cooperation.” Nevertheless, in a pointed barb at Moscow, she stressed that “the G7 shares common values like freedom, democracy and human rights. Therefore one can say that the G7 is a community that assumes responsibility.”

Japan said it would favour the G7 countries setting their own target for reducing carbon dioxide emissions, in a boost for efforts to combat global warming. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met French President Francois Hollande, who will host the Paris climate talks at the end of the year.

Climate

Currently, around 80% of worldwide primary energy comes from fossil fuels, the combustion of which emits around 34bn tons of carbon dioxide. This level of emissions, if continued in future decades, would push temperatures far above the deadly dangerous 2°C upper limit.

For humanity to have a likely chance (at least two-thirds) of staying below the 2°C threshold, a small reduction in CO2 emissions will not be enough. In fact, emissions will have to fall to zero later this century to stop any further rise in the atmospheric concentration of CO2.  For this, the world economy must be “decarbonised”.

Indeed, with rising worldwide energy use, continued dependence on fossil fuels could raise global temperatures by 4-6°C, leading to potentially catastrophic consequences for global food production, higher sea levels, mega-droughts, major floods, devastating heat waves and extreme storms.

The global warming to date is already around 0.9°C – nearly half way to the upper limit. The G-7 countries underscored the importance of holding global warming to below 2° Celsius (3.6° Fahrenheit). This means that the Earth’s average temperature should be kept within 2°C of the average temperature that prevailed before the start of the Industrial Revolution (roughly before 1800). The G-7 leaders acknowledged that in order to hold global warming below the 2°C limit, the world’s economies must end their dependence on fossil fuels.

The UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) has on behalf of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, been working on such low-carbon strategies for the main emitting countries in a project called the Deep Decarburization Pathways Project.

Climate change topped the agenda for Monday’s sessions, at which the leaders were also set to discuss combating epidemics and other health issues, the fight against terrorism from Boko Haram to Islamic State, and African development. In a boost for Merkel’s push to combat global warming, Japan said it would favour the G7 countries setting their own target for reducing carbon dioxide emissions. US President Barack Obama kept his counsel on the climate issue on Sunday, the first day of the summit, when leaders presented a united front in facing Russian over the Ukraine conflict and discussed the global economy.

Japan and Canada were regarded before the summit as potential hold-outs on the climate issue, diplomats and environmental campaigners said. French President Francois Hollande, who will host a UN summit on fighting climate change at the end of the year, was also looking for an ambitious commitment from the G7 to ending their dependence on fossil fuels by mid-century. He was also seeking a financial commitment to aiding poorer countries to transform their energy sectors so they can reduce carbon emissions. But it was not clear if Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper would accept a specific G7 goal. “Canada supports an agreement in Paris that includes all GHG (greenhouse gas) emitting countries,” Stephen Lecce, spokesman for Harper, told Reuters in an email. The green lobby is hoping that Merkel will push for a pledge to phase out fossil fuels by 2050 ahead of the Paris meeting, which aims to agree on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. Greenpeace’s head of international climate politics, Martin Kaiser, said the only way for the summit to be seen as a success is for the US, Japanese and Canadian leaders to “take their feet off of the throat of a climate agreement.” “This means an unequivocal commitment and support for competitive renewable energy technologies,” he added. The G7 leaders will meet so-called “outreach guests” – the leaders of Nigeria, Senegal, Ethiopia, Liberia, South Africa, Tunisia and Iraq – and hold final news conferences in the afternoon.

Breakthrough?

The G-7 declaration in Germany by seven largest high-income economies (the US, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Canada) to go decarbonized by this century is merely a declaration, and it does not yet include the commitments of many of the world’s largest CO2-emitting countries, including China, India and Russia. USA does not seriously want to cut emissions that would adversely affect its economic growth and all other polluting nations just want to hide behind Washington.

For the first time in history, the major rich economies have agreed in principle on the need to end their dependence on fossil fuels. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, US President Barack Obama and the other G-7 leaders have risen to the occasion and deserve strong global approbation. The USA, Japan, Germany, the UK, France, Italy and Canada took a revolutionary decision to decarbonise their economies during this century which is indeed something unprecedented.. The historic breakthrough is recorded in the final G-7 communiqué.

The breakthrough at the G-7 summit was that the seven governments recognised this, declaring that the 2°C limit requires “decarburization of the global economy over the course of this century”.  The G-7 finally stated clearly what scientists have been urging for years: humanity must not merely reduce, but must end, CO2 emissions from fossil fuels this century.

Decarburization is feasible, though by no means easy. World must become more energy efficient, for example, through modern building designs that reduce the needs for heating, cooling, and energy-intensive ventilation. World must switch from fossil fuels to electricity (or hydrogen produced by zero-carbon electricity) or in some cases (such as aviation) to advanced biofuels. Electricity must be produced with wind, solar, nuclear, hydroelectric, geothermal and other non-carbon energy sources, or by capturing and storing the CO2 produced by fossil fuels (a process known as CCS).  Importantly, this must be achieved without disrupting the energy-dependent world economy and without costing a fortune to achieve.

This global process of decarburization will be long and complex and it will require detailed roadmaps with periodic redesigns as technologies evolve. Here, too, the G-7 made a historic breakthrough by declaring its readiness to “develop long-term national low-carbon strategies” to get to a decarbonised future.  The G-7, notably, committed to developing and deploying innovative technologies striving for a transformation of the energy sectors by 2050 and invited all countries to join this endeavor.

It will need several decades to convert power stations, infrastructure and building stock to low-carbon technologies and we will need to upgrade the low-carbon technologies themselves, whether PV solar cells, or batteries for energy storage, or CCS for safely storing CO2, or nuclear power plants that win the public’s confidence.   Of course, it is a crucial step that will greatly encourage other countries to participate in deep decarburization as well, especially in view of the G-7’s commitment to speed the development of improved low-carbon technologies.

The outcome of the G-7’s meeting augurs well for a strong global agreement on climate change when all 193 UN member states meet in Paris in December to hammer out a truly global climate agreement.  The G-7 countries have not yet ensured a successful outcome at the Paris meeting, but they have taken a big step toward that goal.

Ukraine vs. Russia

For the third time, Kremlin strongman Vladimir Putin was barred from a G7 summit due to what US President Barack Obama termed his “aggression in Ukraine”, as the Group of Seven top powers closed ranks against Russia. The leaders in a joint communiqué recalled that the duration of sanctions should be clearly linked to Russia’s complete implementation of the Minsk agreements and respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty. A recent flare-up in fighting in the east has left at least 28 dead and threatened the Minsk ceasefire deal.

The tough line from the world’s power brokers came as Ukraine’s defence minister accused pro-Russian rebels — backed by Moscow — of deploying an army of 40,000 men on the Ukrainian border, equivalent to a “mid-sized European state.”

United States President Barack Obama and French President Holland have reportedly agreed on some of the world’s most pressing issues, including the imposition of sanctions on Russia in the light of its actions in Ukraine and the need to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the White House said. The two leaders agreed that the economic sanctions against Russia should stay in place until the country fully abides by the terms of the peace accord that was struck with Ukraine last year, reported The New York Times.

The leaders want Russia and Ukraine to comply with a February 12 ceasefire agreed in the Belarus capital Minsk that largely halted fighting in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian government forces. EU leaders agreed in March that sanctions imposed over Russia’s seizure and annexation of Crimea and destabilisation of eastern Ukraine would stay until the Minsk ceasefire was fully applied, effectively extending them to the end of the year, but a formal decision has yet to be taken.

Merkel said any easing of the sanctions depended largely on Russia and its behavior in Ukraine. Sanctions could also be “rolled back” if Russia lived up to its commitments, the communique said.  “Does he continue to wreck his country’s economy and continue Russia’s isolation in pursuit of a wrong-headed desire to recreate the glories of the Soviet empire or does he recognise that Russia’s greatness does not depend on violating” other countries’ territory? he asked.

Merkel, once dubbed the “climate chancellor”, hopes to revitalize her green credentials by getting the G7 industrial nations to agree specific emissions goals ahead of a larger year-end United Nations climate meeting in Paris.

Group of Seven (G7) leaders vowed at a summit in the Bavarian Alps to keep sanctions against Russia in place until President Vladimir Putin and Moscow-backed separatists fully implement the terms of a peace deal for Ukraine. The Ukraine conflict and a long-running debt standoff between Greece and its European partners dominated the first day of the annual meeting hosted by Chancellor Angela Merkel at Schloss Elmau, a luxury Alpine hotel in southern Germany.

Merkel is hoping to secure commitments from her G7 guests to tackle global warming ahead of a major United Nations climate summit in Paris in December. The German agenda also foresees discussions on global health issues, from Ebola to antibiotics and tropical diseases. But Ukraine took centre stage, with US President Barack Obama calling for “standing up to Russian aggression”.

European monitors have blamed a recent upsurge in violence in eastern Ukraine on the pro-Moscow separatists. Russian President Vladimir Putin was frozen out of what used to be the G8 after Moscow’s annexation of Crimea last year.

Athens is running out of cash and will default on its debt, a move that could end up pushing it out of the euro zone, if it fails to reach a deal with its euro zone and International Monetary Fund creditors in the coming weeks. On Greece, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker voiced exasperation with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who has dismissed the latest aid-for-reform proposal from international creditors as “absurd”.

A White House spokesman said Obama discussed the debt crisis with Merkel and hoped Greece and its partners could find a solution that enabled Athens to reform and return to growth without turmoil on global financial markets.

Many aid agencies were disappointed as  they were using the June 7-8 meeting to lobby the G7 leaders for resources in a critical year for development as new international development goals covering the next 15 years are due to be adopted by the United Nations in September.  Oxfam criticised a G7 pledge to lift 500 million people out of hunger and malnutrition, saying it wasn’t backed up with a commitment to provide funds or deliver on target. Oxfam’s G7 spokesman said the big bosses are offering a smattering of largely unfunded initiatives to tackle the huge global challenges of hunger, inequality, and disease. This is a slap in the face for millions of people who don’t have enough to eat or who can’t afford to pay for vital healthcare.

Leaders and reporters were shuttled to the summit site by helicopter on Sunday morning after hundreds of protesters blocked the main road to Schloss Elmau. Anticipating popular protests at the venue, German government deployed 17,000 police around the former Winter Olympic games venue at the foot of Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze. Another 2,000 were on stand-by across the border in Austria. Thousands of anti-G7 protesters marched in the nearby town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. There were sporadic clashes with police and several marchers were taken to hospital with injuries, but the violence was minor compared to some previous summits.

There weren’t any tangible commitments for the world’s most vulnerable children and despite addressing issues like hunger and immunization. “The G7 leaders missed an opportunity to lead the way for the future of children, especially those living with the effects of war and conflicts, and dying from easily preventable causes.” World Vision said that G7 actions we nothing more than “putting band-aids on symptoms”.

Although Paris had taken a harder line and had expressed more skepticism than Washington on the Iran nuclear talks, both Obama and Hollande concurred that the two nations, along with other world powers, will stay united in pursuit of a nuclear deal with Tehran. The White House further informed that the two leaders also discussed climate change, trade, countering Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq and Syria and the instability in Libya. The two leaders met on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Elmau, Germany. German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Group of Seven (G7) leaders to commit to tough goals to cut greenhouse gases at the final day of their summit in the Bavarian Alps.

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