Monday, June 04, 2007

Managing the message on climate change

I’ve already commented in the past that the climate change debate is a dialogue of the deaf. Certainly there’s lots of dialogue – maybe it’s because it’s World Environment Day tomorrow and the G8 Summit starts later this week.

Looking again at George Bush’s announcements on climate change we see a worrying message. He wants to call a global summit in America to discuss the issues to an American agenda. We already have the G8. We already have the IPCC. The last thing we want is the world’s biggest polluter trying to take over the debate. The US has made it clear that its economy depends ultimately on coal, and certainly that country has massive reserves. We know that burning coal releases CO2 – and many other substances that are far more harmful. The US line is that technology will find a way and we don’t need to cut consumption while we’re looking for the solution. No carbon trading or limits, they say, - we must not prejudice economic growth. The US is gambling on undiscovered technologies – and some believe that science proves that gamble is already lost.

Today China has entered the debate. In advance of the G8 they have announced a climate change initiative, but they too emphasise that the protection of economic growth is crucial. They recognise that there is much to be done, because China’s rapid industrialisation has led to far worse pollution than anything in the West, quite apart from CO2 emissions. As I’ve mentioned before, China is a major polluter but the pollution per head is much lower than in America and in many other countries.
We need to support China’s efforts to clean up.

We need to get used to using less energy ourselves (-not a bad strategy as it’s going to get scarce and expensive) and we need to build on what has already been developed by the G8 and IPCC – not start a new debate. We need a clear and constructive dialogue – not a dialogue of the deaf.

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