Who would have thought – three or four years ago – that climate change would become the central focus of a G8 meeting? While the situation certainly demonstrates the problems that remain to be overcome (both American unwillingness to accept emission caps and the need to incorporate large and rapidly developing economies like India and China into such a system), the level of attention being directed at the problem is very welcome.
The sad fact is that Canada has the worst record of any G8 state, when it comes to the gap between our Kyoto commitment and our present level of emissions. For a state that prides itself on being a responsible global citizen, this is hardly a position that is tenable in the long term.
When Canada ratified Kyoto, we committed ourselves to emissions 6% below the 1990 level, achieved by 2012. At present, Canadian emissions are about 26% over. The United States, by contrast, is only about 16% above 1990 levels. The only G8 state on track to meet its commitment because of policy efforts is Britain. Germany has cut emissions, but not yet by as much as they pledged. Russia has much lower emissions, but it is on account of the collapse of their economy after 1989, rather than any self-restraint. Indeed, Russia ends up in the odd position of being able to sell credits for emissions that would never have occurred anyhow (the so-called ‘hot air’).
Global emissions continue to grow at a rate even higher than the most pessimistic option modeled by the IPCC. Indian and Chinese emissions are each up by about 100% since 1990. Everyone need to do better. Hopefully, the ongoing gathering of political energy will make that come to pass.
[Update: 7 June 2007] Unsurprisingly, the G8 seem to be developing a fairly toothless joint statement on climate change.