With all of the talk of an impending flu pandemic, the meeting of high-level ministers from the world’s “major economies” has not been given much press. Perhaps this also may be a result of the fact that nothing path breaking was agreed upon in the meetings that just wrapped up in Washington.
According to the official recap released yesteday by the State Department:
There was wide support for considering how best the Major Economies Forum can contribute to a successful outcome at the UN climate negotiations in Copenhagen in December. The meeting included active exchanges on this topic, and participants agreed to continue discussions on mitigation, finance, adaptation and related issues at their next meeting, including exploring shared assumptions. The discussions underscored the need for near term ambitious actions for all, as well as pathways, and the development of mid-term goals for developed countries.
Participants commented on the potential for the Major Economies Forum to support the development of transformational technologies critical to mitigating climate change globally.
The highlighted words reflect that little of substance was agreed upon in this US-sponsored parallel session to the ongoing United Nations talks. When Bush conceived of these talks a year ago, it was not clear what was going to be accomplished. Skepticism of Bush’s intentions tempered enthusiasm.
With the US rhetoric on climate change shifting under Obama, at least a spirit of participation and pragmatism has been developed. Yet, major gaps remain between the positions of the US, the EU, and emerging economies.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the EU is frustrated with US and Australian foot dragging on agreeing to an adequate medium term (2020) level of greenhouse gas reduction.
The Chinese envoy was disappointed that the issue of transferring green technologies to developing economies was not even discussed–which is interesting since technology transfer is a major component of the ongoing UN talks.
Fiona Harvey of the Financial Times suggests this omission may reflect a major sticking point between China & India and the US. Namely, the issue of how to address rapidly rising developing country emissions. Although China recently surpassed the US as the largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions, their per-capita levels are minuscule. Thus, asking developing countries to make reductions (as Bush demanded) is unreasonable and inequitable. What is on the table, Harvey reports, is asking developing countries to curb their GHG growth rather than engage in absolute cuts.
Andrew Light and Nina Hachigan at the Center for American Progress have a good post saying that China is giving signals that they are willing to negotiate on this point.
This latter issue will be interesting to watch as leaders from the major economies convene in Italy in July. If an agreeable arrangement between China and the US can be worked out prior to Copenhagen, there will be significant momentum for the UN meetings to result in a meaningful agreement.