Background: The climate dialogue events organised by Globe International was started by Globe UK in July 2006, during the UK presidencies both in G8 and EU. The first meeting of parlamentarians from G8 countries + 5 big developing countries (China, India, Mexico, Brazil, South-Africa) took place just before the Gleneagles G8 Summit, where climate was on the agenda. Since that, similar meetings have been organised twice a year. Sometimes other countries as Korea, Nigeria and Bangladesh have also been involved. Representatives from the science and business community have participated in every meeting.
The latest meeting in this series was in Washington, in the US Senate, on February 14-15th 2007. The participation was bigger than ever before: 4 MPs from China, 1 minister, 5 from European Parliament (Wijkman, Doyle, Ek, Prodi, Hassi), 3 from Japan, 5 from Russia, 4 from Korea, 5 from Canada, 5 from Germany, 5 from Italy, 3 from France, 3 from Brazil, 4 from South-Africa, 10 from UK, 5 from Mexico.
From USA 8 senators and 4 representatives participated, but in practice they only came for a short while to deliver their statements.
The most interesting issues was, of course, what are the prospects for getting a binding CO2 emission reduction legislation in USA. We heard several quite climate friendly statements, but most were, unfortunately, rather general, both on domestic legislation and on international negotiations. Several politicians said that USA is going to have domestic emission reduction legislation anyway, independently of international negotiations.
The speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, has officially announced that new climate legislation should be finished by the national day, 4th of July this year. There are several proposals on the table in the Congress, I have not heard if Pelosi has specified, which of these proposals she means.
Senator Larry Graig, a “Kyoto is dead” man stated that the cap and trade legislation will never get the necessary majority in the Senate, 60 senators. His argumentation was pretty much the same as that of Bush: no emission limits, new technology instead (as if these were alternatives). He pointed out that in the previous Senate the McCane-Liebermann proposal got less votes in the second round (38) than in the first round (44). (Both votes took place before the last election, the 1st version was neutral on nuclear, the 2nd included some elements to promote nuclear). He also said that there are 32 new nuclear power stations on the drawing board in USA.
Rep Udall told that already in the last, Republican dominated Senate there were 53 senators backing a resolution demanding binding emission reduction legislation. Most probably McCane-Liebermann act will get more support, when it will again be turned neutral on nuclear. He emphasised that 25 countries produce 80 % of the global emissions, it is important to get all these countries on board.
The best speech to my mind was delivered by John Kerry, who has previously chaired Globe USA. He told that he will soon publish a book together with his wife, “This Moment of Planet Earth”. Climate change is only one of environmental changes which are going on and which can have very serious impacts on societies, others are e.g. acidification of oceans, chemicalisation. Jim Hanson from NASA has convinced Kerry that “if God does not intervene” we have only 10 years left to remarkably reduce global emissions, If we believe the message of science and act accordingly, what would be the worst result, he asked. We would get cleaner air, develop new technology, get rid of fossil dependency, we would save a big number of species. On the other hand, if we rely on climate sceptics and act accordingly, what will be the worst possible result? A catastrophe. It should not bee too difficult to choose between these. In Alaska a city is already being moved to another place, because the coast is eroded by melting ice and rising sea level. Many US cities are facing problems with freshwater, because of the melting mountain glaciers.
Kerry told he is planning a cap and trade proposal which goes far longer that McCane-Lieberman, together with Olivia Snowe. He was optimistic of the possibilities of the proposal to get adopted by the Senate, after the Senate has heard scientists and other experts. Kerry also said to the Chinese delegation that you in China simply cannot continue building a new coal fired power station every week. All Chinese looked at him and nodded.
When asked about Kyoto Kerry talked about “global responsibility”. I understood this meaning that also he does not advocate US joining a global deal without emission limits for major developing countries, too.
A lot of other interesting issues were said, too.
The meeting adopted a statement which has not been quite correctly reported by the press. BBC told that “global leaders reached a climate deal”, which was exaggerating. Many new agencies have told that the meeting flagged for a 550 ppm CO2 limit. In fact the statement talked about 450-550 ppm, and referred to the EU goal of limiting global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. The statement is on the webpage of Globe, but unfortunately I do not find the page just now.