Protests and uncertainty before G8 summit

The run-up to the 6-8 June G8 summit in Heiligendamm, Germany, has been characterised not only by international disagreement on how to manage climate change, but also by violent clashes between police and protestors. 

An estimated 100 to 500 police and protestors have reportedly been injured in clashes in Gremany’s northern port of Rostock, near the Heiligendamm area where the summit will be held. Protest organisers had called for peaceful demonstrations, but the situation quickly spiralled out of control.

At diplomatic level, there is wide speculation that the summit will likely fail to create international consensus on how to manage climate change, in particular industrial CO2 emissions, after the expiry of the Kyoto Protocal in 2012. 

Less than two weeks before the summit, both China and the US proposed their own separate plans for dealing with the issue. Neither of these plans foresees any kind of “binding, measurable and enforceable” emissions targets under UN auspices, which is precisely what EU leaders, particularly German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Commission President José Manuel Barroso, are pushing for (EURACTIV 01/06/07 and 04/06/07).

As for China’s plan, it does not propose binding targets, but focuses on the role of renewables and clean-coal technologies. China argues that climate change is primarily the historical responsibility of developed western nations, and therefore developing countries like China should not be bound to international emissions restrictions that would jeopardise their progress. 

China is not a member of the G8 but has been invited to the summit because of its importance as a global economic player and because its greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions are rapidly increasing. Some analysts predict China will outpace the US in terms of GHG emissions before the end of 2007. 

Speaking in Berlin on 4 June, Commission President Barroso reiterated the EU’s position, saying that Kyoto offers a ready and applicable framework for dealing with climate change and that there is a need for a global emissions cap. Barroso is hoping to create some consensus on the issue before the December 2007 UN Climate Change Conference in Bali, in order to reach a post-Kyoto agreement by 2009. In an effort to build greater diplomatic consensus, Barroso and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are also holding separate discussions with Japan and Canada shortly before the G8 summit.

The Brussels-based NGO Friends of the Earth Europe (FOEE) is warning that the summit is “in danger of ending without a strong commitment to fight climate change” and is urging European leaders to “enforce their position and stand up to President Bush, who is attempting to weaken the G8’s commitment”.

A number of other groups and organisations, such as the Greens in the Parliament, the Club of Madrid and the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), have called upon G8 leaders move towards a binding international post-Kyoto agreement on reducing GHG emissions.

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