23rd May 2019

Blair and Merkel push US for concrete climate deal

  • Angela Merkel and Tony Blair on the same climate change boat ahead of the G8 summit (Photo: European Community, 2006)

Tony Blair and Angela Merkel have urged Washington to commit to a concrete timetable and cuts in CO2 emissions at the forthcoming G8 summit, but China and India have questioned the European targets altogether.

The UK prime minister met the German chancellor in Berlin on Sunday (3 June) for a preview of topics to be discussed at the gathering of leaders from the world's eight most industrialised countries - Germany, the US, Russia, UK, Italy, France, Canada and Japan - to take place in the Baltic Sea resort of Heiligendamm, between 6 and 8 June.

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Speaking to journalists after their Berlin meeting, Mr Blair and Ms Merkel said they welcomed the earlier statement by the US president George Bush suggesting Washington's interest in a global plan to tackle climate change. But they pointed out that swift action without further delays is needed to prevent global warming.

"I think a sensible analysis would say that it is good that the United States has committed to being part of a global agreement, and has committed to the goal of a substantial reduction in emissions," Mr Blair commented, according to BBC. "These are commitments that have not been made before, they're made now - that's important."

"However, we then need to go further. We need to make sure that we set a clear global target," he added.

Ms Merkel - chairing the G8 gathering - would like the club to endorse a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent before 2050 compared to 1990 levels, as well as of limiting global temperature rises to two degrees Celsius by the end of this century.

Now or next year?

In the run up to the summit, the US has strongly opposed such a plan however, with the German chancellor expressing her scepticism over chances for a major climate breakthrough in Heiligendamm.

In a statement sparking some praise but mainly criticism, the US president last week made an alternative suggestion - to kick off global talks next autumn which would lead to "a long-term global goal for reducing greenhouse gases".

The "new global framework," envisaged by the White House as a future replacement of the Kyoto targets, which Mr Bush has refused to sign up to and which expires in 2013 - should include big developing countries like China and India, he said.

Canada appears to back the US line. Environment minister John Baird, along with Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper, who started a pre-G8 European tour on Monday, has said any effective global plan must take on board "major emitters."

"The goal isn't how many people we can get into the corner to call for absolute targets," Mr Baird said, according to Canadian press. "The goal is how do we get all the world's major emitters coming together for targets to reduce these harmful greenhouse gases. And this is what's so important."

Not rich enough to go green?

The main Asian polluters have already spoken out against targets such as those promoted by Ms Merkel and Mr Blair, however. Ma Kai, the director of China's National Development and Reform Commission, pointed out that the EU plan should be subjected to a proper study. "I fear this lacks a scientific basis," he remarked, according to Reuters.

In the country's national plan on climate change, published on Monday (4 June), Chinese experts suggest "The first and overriding priorities of developing countries are sustainable development and poverty eradication."

"China will continue to actively tackle climate change issues in accordance with its national sustainable development strategy in the future," states the document.

India has also showed reluctance to toe the EU's green line. "Nobody can simply set artificial values and then call on others to follow them," foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee told German daily Handelsblatt.

He went on to say that if there is to be a CO2 limit, then industrialised countries have to bear the brunt of the cost.

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