G20 climate summit pushes technology not targets
The industrialised and developing nations that emit the most greenhouse gases have pledged to work together to develop and deploy 'clean technologies' to tackle climate change.
Meeting this week in London, United Kingdom, energy and environment ministers from the 'G20' group of nations also agreed to work with the World Bank to create incentives for large-scale private investment in such technologies.
By focusing on technological solutions rather than setting measureable targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, however, the ministers have dismayed campaigning organisations.
The meeting took place in the run-up to a major UN conference later this month in Montreal, Canada that is expected to focus on how to tackle climate change once the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.
The protocol commits signatories from the industrialised world to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions but places no such restrictions on developing nations.
The United States and Australia have not ratified the protocol as they feel this distinction would damage their economies while letting competitors among the major emerging economies — such as Brazil, China and India — continue emitting greenhouse gases.
The developing countries, meanwhile, say it is unfair to expect them to commit to reducing emissions. They argue that this would stunt their development, and that current global warming is due to the industrialised world's past emissions, made when developing countries were emitting low levels of greenhouse gases.
"The blunt truth about the politics of climate change is that no country will want to sacrifice its economy in order to meet this challenge," said UK prime minister Tony Blair. "The solutions will come in the end, in part at least, through the private sector developing the technology and science."
Blair was referring to developing renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, and technologies to capture and store carbon emissions from coal-fired power stations.
The focus on technology instead of targets for reducing emissions has upset environmentalists. Tony Juniper, executive-director of Friends of the Earth said in a statement: "There has been a lot of discussion about the false choice between targets and technologies, but the reality is that without both we cannot achieve either."
The London meeting was planned when G8 leaders agreed in July to include fast growing economies such as India and China in the global discussion on climate change.
Mexico offered to host the next round of talks between the G8 and emerging developing world economies in 2006.
The G20 includes the G8 group of most industrialised nations and developing countries including Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa.
Read more about climate change in Africa in SciDev.Net's news focus.