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Last Updated: Friday, 8 July, 2005, 17:41 GMT 18:41 UK
G8 climate deal plays on language
By Richard Black
BBC News environment correspondent

Industrial emissions
Dependence on fossil fuels will continue long into the future
In most sports, a numerical advantage of seven to one would guarantee victory.

But Scotland is home to some unusual events - tossing the caber, haggis hurling, and now the Gleneagles Go-around, where it appears that naming your team "the United States" is the real guarantee of victory.

It is difficult to interpret in any other way the final G8 communiqué on climate change, delayed for nearly 24 hours because of Thursday's bombings and loss of life in London.

Analysis of diplomatic language can be a tedious exercise, but in this case a little effort brings instant reward; the nuances paint a parentage picture as clearly as a genetic family tree.

Climate change is, says the communiqué, a "serious long-term challenge"; we should "slow and, as science justifies, stop and then reverse" the growth of greenhouse gases.

But go back a bit. On 4 September 2004, in a speech to the Prince of Wales' Business and the Environment Programme, Tony Blair called climate change a "threat".

He used the term again in an article in The Economist on 1 January this year; while a draft of the G8 communiqué, leaked in May, also used the "T" word .

President Bush's definitive statement on climate change, meanwhile, dates from 11 June 2001 - it's known as the Rose Garden Speech - and the word there is "challenge" - the word we find in Friday's communiqué.

'At a price'

Then there is the science. By ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, Mr Blair and the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Russia have indicated their belief that greenhouse gas emissions need to fall within the next five years.

Now, apparently, those same leaders are able to approve a document indicating that reductions in emissions may not be needed now, but at some future time "as science justifies".

It describes climate change as a "serious long-term challenge"
It says human activities contribute "in large part" to increases in greenhouse gases
It says "we know enough to act now and put ourselves on a path to slow and, as science justifies, stop and then reverse the growth of greenhouse gases"
It says two billion people lack access to modern energy sources; increasing access is needed in order to support the Millennium Goals
It says that developed nations have the responsibility to act
By choosing to leave the Kyoto process, Mr Bush indicated his belief that emissions cuts are not urgently needed.

In the run-up to this summit, environmental campaign groups maintained that the seven countries which had ratified Kyoto would be faced with a stark choice.

They would either have to agree to a document much weaker than they would have wanted, or to break with the United States, break with precedent, and make plain the oceanic gulf between the seven and the one.

The French leader, Jacques Chirac, appeared to acknowledge that the bridge built by the final communiqué has come at a price.

"The agreement... is an important agreement, even if it doesn't go as far as we would have wanted," he said. "It restores dialogue between the seven (G8) Kyoto members and the United States."

To the future

Has anything concrete, then, come out of the months of planning, the millions of air-kilometres spent on preparatory jaunts, the reams of newsprint, the hours of broadcasting time, the hours upon inconceivable hours of lobbying from all quarters?

There is an agreement to talks on technology in London in November, following on from the G20 meeting of energy and environment ministers that took place, also in London, in March.

But clauses which were present in earlier drafts of the communiqué to set up a number of special funds - for example, to help Africa adapt to the impacts of climate change - have been excised from the final version.

One seasoned observer with a background in Capitol Hill politics told me "You get to the end, and you turn the final page, and you ask yourself 'where is the rest?'"

That little change can be expected in the short term is evidenced by a sentence in the separate communiqué on the global economy and oil which was also agreed by the G8 leaders in Gleneagles: "Oil demand is currently projected to continue its strong growth."


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