Thursday, June 07, 2007

"G8" agree climate change deal and leaked draft commentary

A couple of links to news articles covering the G8 climate change deal. I must admit to being a little surprised at how the US has moved on this issue. I suspect that this is merely a strategic move ahead of the "+5" joining the talks later this week.

Bush cannot not afford to give China anything - I am also surprised by the level of anti-China rhetoric coming out of the US along the lines of "China is stealing all our jobs".

There is still much for free trade economists to do in the US irrespective of environmental economic concerns.

G8 leaders agree to climate deal[BBC]
[Blair said] "I'm both surprised and very pleased at how far we have come forward in the couple of years since [the 2005 G8 summit at] Gleneagles," he told reporters.

"Now we have an agreement that there will be a climate change deal, it will involve everyone, including the US and China, and it will involve substantial cuts."

It is interesting to read the BBC article after reading this commentary written on the 5th June by Walden Bello at Foreign Policy in Focus with the by-line (a think tank without walls). This is a good read.

Climate Change Flap at the G8

In this article Walden comments on a leaked draft of the G8 declaration.
A close look at a leaked draft of the G8 declaration reveals that the Merkel-Bush quarrel concerns details not substance. The guiding principle of the document’s approach to climate change is to “decouple economic growth from energy use.” In other words, economic growth remains central and sacrosanct, meaning that the G8 will not likely propose any cuts in consumption levels. For instance, instead of calling for a radical cutback in automobile use, the declaration accepts as given that the number of motor vehicles will double to 1.2 billion by 2020. It proposes to expand production and accelerate development of non-fossil fuel alternatives for future cars such as synthetic biofuels and carbon dioxide-free hydrogen.


The article continues and has some good comments to make about the wider issues of globalisation and environmental issues and how they are irrevocably tied.

Promoting Investment and TRIPs
The other parts of the declaration are even worse.

Curiously enough, the declaration begins with a long warning to developing countries that “erecting barriers” to foreign investment flows will “result in a loss of prosperity.” According to the document, “freedom of investment is a crucial pillar of economic growth, prosperity, and employment.” The G8 is signaling to China, Brazil, India, and the other dynamic developing economies that their investment regimes need to be more hospitable to western investors.

Continuing in this vein, the second part of the document is also addressed to developing countries. Innovation, it says, is central to economic growth, and it can only continue to play this role if there is “strong protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights.” The writing bears the fingerprints of the northern pharmaceutical industry and the high-tech lobbies. Here the G8 is warning Thailand, India, Brazil, and African countries to stop using methods like compulsory licensing to enable their populations to gain access to cheap drugs to fight HIV-AIDs and other pandemics, and telling China and the Southeast Asian countries to restrict the diffusion of advanced technologies through tighter enforcement of corporate intellectual property claims.

Targeting China, Recycling Africa
There is, interestingly, a section entitled “Responsibility for Raw Materials: Transparency and Sustainable Growth.” The G8, the document states, seek “to support resource rich countries in their efforts to further expand their resource potentials while promoting sustainable development, human rights, and good governance.” Why is the G8 suddenly concerned with “increased transparency’’ in the extractive sector when their corporations have so long opposed efforts to control their depredations in the developing world? The answer is transparent in their “call on our trading partners to refrain from restraints on trade and distortion of competition in contravention of WTO rules and to observe market economy principles.” China, which has been concluding scores of mineral extraction agreements in Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia, is undoubtedly the main target of this section. The document reflects the fear among many rich country governments and corporations that the Chinese might end up shutting them out of resource-rich areas.

As for the G8 Declaration on Africa, it is mainly a recycling of old, unfulfilled promises to increase development aid, along with the usual platitudes about promoting good governance and more effective public financial management, institutionalizing “market-friendly” development frameworks, and “improving our response to fragile states.” At the Gleneagles summit in 2005, The Financial Times notes that, “the G8 committed itself to increasing overall annual aid levels by $50 billion by 2010 and doubling aid to Africa. Official figures show almost all these countries are behind their targets.”

I usually don’t agree with the Times editorial page. But this time it is hard to dispute its conclusion: “Nobody expects much from this increasingly outmoded talking shop of the complacent rich.” I couldn’t have said it better.

1 comment:

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