Lords to G8: UK climate policies "wildly optimistic"

  

US Kyoto scepticism will draw comfort from a UK House of Lords report slamming the United Nations' International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for being under political influence.

Leaders of the world's seven most industrialised nations and Russia were greeted at Gleneagles, Scotland, on 6 July by protesters of another type to the usual anti-globalisation contingent.

As the G8 prepared to discuss global warming issues and poverty alleviation in Africa, they were presented with a report from the UK House of Lords economic committee claiming that the UN Kyoto Protocol will not deliver and that costs estimates of fulfilling UK commitments on climate change were "wildly optimistic".

The traditionally conservative Lords wrote: "We are concerned that UK energy and climate policy appears to be based on dubious assumptions about the roles of renewable energy and energy efficiency and that the costs to the UK of achieving its objectives have been poorly documented". They pressed the government to substantiate its costs estimates, involving more of the economics ministry (Treasury) and less of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). 

Moreover, the Lords cast doubt on the United Nations' objectivity about global warming science, saying that emissions scenarios presented by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are "apparently influenced by political considerations". They therefore recommended that the government presses the IPCC to change its approach.

Other points in the report summary:

  • "There are some positive aspects to global warming and these appear to have been played down in the IPCC"
  • "Since warming will continue, regardless of action now, due to the lengthy time lags in climate systems […] a more balanced approach to the relative merits of adaptation and mitigation is needed, with far more attention paid to adaptation measures"

On what should be done after Kyoto, the Lords were adamant: "We are concerned that the international negotiations on climate change reduction will be ineffective because of the preoccupation with setting emissions targets," they said.

The Lords then urged the UK government to take a lead in exploring alternative options for future global action on climate change after 2012, "based perhaps on agreements on technology and its diffusion".

Positions: 

The Lords' call for more focus to be placed on technologies echoes the long-standing position of the US administration that continues to be the main focus of policy action from the White House. In a statement ahead of the summit, President Bush urged G8 leaders to "shift the debate on climate change away from limits on greenhouse gas emissions towards new energy technologies that would reduce environmental harm without affecting economic growth". 

"My hope is -- and I think the hope of [British Prime Minister] Tony Blair is -- to move beyond the Kyoto debate and to collaborate on new technologies that will enable the United States and other countries to diversify away from fossil fuels so that the air will be cleaner and that we have the economic and national security that comes from less dependence on foreign sources of oil," Bush said in an interview with ITV's Tonight with Trevor McDonald. 

The same technology approach has also been consistently defended by the European employers' organisation UNICE. In a statement to the G8 leaders, UNICE said disseminating existing low CO2 emissions technologies that are already available is of key importance along with developing new ones. UNICE said it hoped that the G8 could agree on a set of practical measures on technology. 

Timeline: 
  • The G8 will discuss global warming issues on 7 July
  • Reports indicate that a loose agreement involving the US could be reached at the summit
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