x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

G8 faces carbon stalemate

The Group of Eight (G8) is unlikely to strike a deal on carbon emissions that will advance the Kyoto agreement.

The venue for the Group of Eight Hokkaido Toyako summit meeting at  Windsor Hotel Toya in Toyako, northern Japan.
The venue for the Group of Eight Hokkaido Toyako summit meeting at Windsor Hotel Toya in Toyako, northern Japan.

The Group of Eight (G8) industrialised nations is unlikely to strike a deal on carbon emissions that will advance the Kyoto agreement, as it remains split on how the developing world should contribute. Developing countries, including those in Opec, have argued that emerging economies should be largely exempt from emissions cuts because they are not responsible for the buildup of greenhouse gases in the past century.

The United States, on the other hand, argues that any deal will be meaningless without China, India and other big emerging energy consumers. Building a consensus on a framework for reducing emissions to take effect after 2012, when Kyoto is due to expire, will be one of the top items on the agenda of a three-day G8 summit that starts today in Japan's northern spa resort of Toyako. Other issues are high oil prices, food shortages and inflation.

Japan's prime minister, Yasuo Fukuda, is hoping to forge a strong summit statement on the issue of climate change to boost his flagging popularity at home. He will seek to convince other G8 countries - France, Germany, Britain, Canada, Italy, Russia and the US - to halve their emissions by 2050, local media reported. But analysts and diplomats cast doubt on whether this was possible. "I do not think we are expecting a deal," the Canadian environment minister, John Baird, told reporters en route to Japan.

Although G8 leaders will push for a commitment from rich nations to take the lead on reducing emissions, the US has been seeking an accord that will include China, India and other major carbon emitters who are expected to join the G8 for part of the summit. "I'll be constructive. I've always advocated that there needs to be a common understanding," said President George W Bush yesterday, after meeting Mr Fukuda. "And I also am realistic enough to tell you that if China and India do not share that same aspiration, then we are not going to solve the problem."

The UAE and other Gulf states are unlikely to experience any short-term impact from a G8 resolution on climate change, but they could be consulted on a wider initiative encompassing major carbon emitters. Data compiled by the World Bank and the World Wildlife Fund show the UAE and Qatar vying for the top spot as the world's biggest per capita carbon emitter, ahead of the US and other Western nations.

That is partly because of the intensity of energy production in the two tiny Gulf states, which both contribute more on a per capita basis to globally traded energy supplies than almost any other energy producing nations. Qatar, which has the world's biggest per capita carbon footprint, had a population last year of less than one million people, yet is the world's biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas. The UAE, with a population estimated at 4.1 million, is the world's fifth-largest oil exporter.

Far from viewing its large per capita carbon footprint as inevitable, the UAE has recently been taking steps to curb emissions by encouraging more efficient domestic energy and water use. Projects sponsored by Abu Dhabi's Environment Agency include implementing environmentally friendly building standards in the UAE's biggest emirate and assisting businesses with securing projects under the Kyoto agreement's Clean Development Mechanism.

The UAE signed the Kyoto pact, but is not obliged to make any emissions cuts. Still, the country has indicated it wanted to position itself as a hub for clean energy development, and is spending billions of dollars in revenue from oil exports to lay a foundation. In January, Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (Masdar) earmarked Dh55 billion (US$15bn) for renewable energy projects. It also signed an agreement with BP, the British energy company, and Rio Tinto, the Anglo-Australian mining concern, to develop a $2bn hydrogen power plant combined with a carbon-capture project that would have negligible carbon emissions.

Masdar is also the developer of Masdar City, a project to develop a carbon-neutral residential and industrial community in Abu Dhabi's desert. The Japanese newspaper, Asahi Shimbun, said developed countries would agree to set their own mid-term targets for greenhouse gases at the summit. It said a pledge from developed nations for country-by-country mid-term targets would be included in a statement on Wednesday from leaders of the expanded group.

Nonetheless, Japan's environment minister, Ichiro Kamoshita, told the public broadcaster, NHK, that his country was unlikely to declare its mid-term target at the G8 summit. "We should weigh this against our national interest," he said. @Email:tcarlisle@thenational.ae