If you look at the headlines this morning you would be forgiven for thinking that yesterday we witnessed an historic deal on the climate.
The words “historic”, “breakthrough” and “substantial” were used to describe the deal, that was “far more ambitious than many expected”.
Tony Blair called it “a huge step forward” and that “This is a major, major step forward. There’s now the recognition that we do need a global deal with everyone in it.”
Angela Merkel, the German chancellor and G8 summit host, called it “a big success…All of us have made concessions so that we could send this strong signal”.
But you need to look at the detail at what was agreed as well as what the actual compromise” actually means. As one columnist in the Guardian wrote: “The G8 is not collectively committed to a single target. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor has failed in securing a statement that global warming needs to be kept below 2C. No mechanisms exist for the indicative goal to be implemented. Each country remains sovereign in deciding how it will tackle carbon emissions, and there is only the promise of further discussions hosted by President Bush in the autumn”.
The BBC added the deal was “full of political wriggle-room, it does not send clear signals for business investment and it offers no certainty that the climate will be saved from irreversible damage”.
Phil Clapp, president of the Washington-based National Environmental Trust, said Mr Bush’s aim was to ensure that talks took place on the terms he favoured. “There is no question that the president wants to make sure that a new international agreement – even if it comes after he has left office – includes as little in the way of binding commitments [on emission cuts] as possible,” he said.John Sauven, the director of Greenpeace UK, said: “George Bush’s final gift to Blair falls short of what was needed… Bush says the US will ‘seriously consider’ substantial long-term cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, but that’s like saying aid to Africa is a good thing then refusing to actually commit to donating a single dollar.”
Friends of the Earth said yesterday’s agreement was “weak and lacked substance”.
Oxfam said it was “profoundly disappointing that some members, including the world’s leading polluter, the US, have failed to sign up to specific targets or even an indicative global stabilisation goal.”
Repeat that one: the US and the G8, for all the rhetoric have failed… no matter which way you spin it.