Environmentalists angry at perceived failure


WHAT BARACK Obama hailed as a “historic consensus” on climate change at this week’s G8 summit in Italy has been greeted with widespread disappointment, and even outrage, by environment and development campaigners.

Greenpeace activists on inflatable boats yesterday painted a coal ship in Civitavecchia, near Rome, with the message “G8: FAILED” at the end of a week of protests in Italy and elsewhere calling on world leaders to set a more ambitious agenda.

More than 100 activists occupied, painted, blocked and hung off cranes at five Italian coal-fired power stations, pointing to coal as “the world’s worst climate killer”. They ended these protests yesterday after G8 and other leaders left L’Aquila.

“G8 inaction has brought the world one step closer to catastrophic climate change. They are hiding their lack of leadership behind hollow words and empty gestures,” said Julien Vincent, of Greenpeace Australia, from on top of the Brindisi coal plant chimney.

“We call on all people to take whatever peaceful action they can to compel their leaders to deliver strong targets for cutting greenhouse gases before the new climate treaty is negotiated in December.” He was referring to the UN climate summit in Copenhagen.

By agreeing to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, but with no interim targets to be achieved much earlier – by 2020 – Greenpeace said the G8 leaders had “abdicated action on climate change to future generations”. “They had an historic opportunity but have squandered it, by failing to commit to mid-term emissions cuts and deferring discussion on money to enable the developing world to tackle climate change”, said Guruswamy Ananthapadmanabhan, its international director.

Christian Aid said G8 leaders needed to demonstrate “much greater political courage on climate change” – otherwise their commitment to take measures to limit the increase in average global temperatures to two degrees would be “little more than hot air”.

Dr Alison Doig, climate policy expert at Christian Aid, said the G8 had undermined its credibility by failing to adopt an emissions target for 2020, or indicating how they will help developing countries meet the proposed temperature goal and global emissions target.

UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, who was at the summit, also criticised G8 leaders for failing to make more substantive commitments. “The policies that they have stated so far are not enough, not sufficient enough,” Mr Ban told reporters.

Referring to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), he said: “This is the science. We must work according to the science. This is politically and morally imperative . . . for the future of humanity.”

Nobel laureate Dr Rajendra Pachauri, who chairs the IPCC, praised the L’Aquila declaration’s mention of a two-degree limit, but said more details were needed.

“It certainly doesn’t give you a roadmap on how you should get there, but at least they’ve defined the destination.”