Kyoto was an extraordinary achievement, over 100 countries coming to an agreement with profound implications for their future economic growth. But in reality, even if implemented – and Britain is one of the few nations that will hit, indeed exceed our Kyoto targets – it would only stabilise emissions. In truth, we need them cut, probably by an order of 60 per cent by 2050 – something we have now set as a UK domestic target.
Moreover, whatever we do – Britain accounts for around 2 per cent of total emissions – any agreement that does not have binding commitments from America, China and India is not one that can deliver. If Britain shut down our emissions entirely ie we closed down the country, the growth in China's emissions would make up the difference within just two years.
Without the biggest economies being part of a framework to reduce carbon dependence, we have no earthly hope of success.
Fortunately I believe we are, potentially, on the verge of a breakthrough.
Chancellor Merkel is providing excellent G8 leadership. China and India
are participating constructively in the G8 + 5 process Gleneagles
established. They know that they will suffer if the environment degrades further. They have every imperative to be part of a deal, provided it is one that allows them to grow their economies so that they can spread the prosperity they are creating to the millions in those countries still in poverty.
And the mood in the US is in the process of a quantum shift. The
President's State of the Union address built on his "addiction to oil"
speech last year and set the first US targets for a reduction in petrol
Many individual American states – notably California, with whose Governor I signed a bilateral agreement on this subject last year – are setting targets for reducing emissions and taking far-reaching action to achieve them. American businesses – including many of their major power companies – have become advocates of a binding cap and trade system.
The German G8 Presidency gives us an opportunity to agree at least the
principles of a new binding international agreement to come into effect
when the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012; but one which is more radical
than Kyoto and more comprehensive, one which this time, includes all the major countries of the world. It is a prize of tantalising significance
and I think it is possible.
So across all three issues, there are signs of hope. But this is part of a
bigger shift in the politics of the global community. It is in this shift
that the real possibilities of progress lie.