With the negative international reaction to the US abandonment of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, the environment promises to be a key issue in Genoa. Many see the Summit as one of the first opportunities for high-level political debate over the current divisions between the Bush administration and the remaining G8 members. Although climate change will no doubt be primary in Genoa, it is anticipated that environmental discussions will also focus on two other important themes: Sustainable development towards Johannesburg 2002 and Environment and Health.
While climate change may be one of the key issues in Genoa, the outlook for discussions is grim given the irreconcilable nature of current divisions. Debate will no doubt centre around the recent changes in the US Climate Change Policy and, in particular, their refusal to sign and ratify the Kyoto Protocol. In Genoa, the Bush administration is likely to promote their new policy that emphasizes increased research and further negotiations within the United Nations framework. However, the United States has clearly stated that it will not work within a framework that does not include mandatory emissions reductions by developing countries - the key factor for their refusal to support Kyoto.
The US position juxtaposes that of the remaining G8 members who are all advocating the ratification of the Protocol. Following the US announcement, the remaining G8 members were relatively united in their opposition to the US position and support for ratification of the Protocol. In the last few weeks, however, there have been significant modifications in the Italian, Japanese and Canadian positions which have made the future of Kyoto even more uncertain.
In terms of the EU countries, it was agreed at the EU Summit in June 2001 to proceed with ratification, and in addition, to send a team to key countries around the world to persuade them to sign and ratify the Kyoto treaty. Italy, however, has recently moved away slightly from the EU position in stating that they would like to enhance cooperation with the United States in order to reduce the current scientific uncertainties for global warming. While the Berlusconi government has wavered on the Protocol, they have stated that they would honour their Kyoto commitments.
Similar to the EU, Russia can also be expected to oppose the United States on this matter. The Russian government is very supportive of the Kyoto Protocol, particularly in light of the investment that it could receive from the many countries that would seek cheaper alternatives to mandatory domestic reductions.
Since the US announcement, the Japanese government has also stated its intentions to proceed with ratification of the Protocol. However, Prime Minister Koizumi has modified this position more recently in stating that Japan may not ratify Kyoto should the United States not be on board. Japan will likely attempt to perform a mediator role in urging the United States to reconsider Kyoto while seeking more flexibility from the European Union. The Japanese Prime Minister has recently announced that he will be discussing Kyoto in individual meetings with President Bush, President Chirac & Prime Minister Blair prior to the Genoa Summit.
While the Canadian government was initially cautious in its criticism of the United States and its own support for the Kyoto Protocol, they have recently confirmed their intentions to proceed with the ratification of Kyoto and the subsequent emissions reductions that are required. The Canadian government has also stated that they find the new US Climate Change policy an inadequate response to this important issue. Similar to Japan, however, Canada has recently modified its position in a recent statement that they may not ratify the Protocol if the final terms are unacceptable. Nevertheless, the Canadian government has also confirmed its willingness to play a mediatory role between the US and EU on this issue.
This dichotomy within the G8 on this matter may prevent the discussions that were previously anticipated on the unresolved Kyoto issues. One of the key outstanding issues is how much of the mandatory emissions reductions can be made up through flexibility mechanisms in place of domestic reductions. In particular, the role of carbon sinks has been an extremely divisive issue resulting in the failed Hague COP-6 in November 2000. In the G8, the issue of sinks has positioned the EU, Japan & Russia against the United States and Canada.
Another key divisive issue is the proposed $1 billion annual fund to assist developing countries in adopting clean technologies. Under the current formula, the United States would pay nearly 40 per cent of this fund given its 1990 emissions levels. Given the fact that the US is not part of the Protocol, it is doubtful that they, along with other countries that do not ratify the agreement, will agree to contribute at the levels that were previously discussed.
Given the fact that the second part of COP-6 will occur simultaneously with the Genoa Summit, high-level political discussions on this issue will no doubt be desired to break the current bureaucratic deadlock. This would provide an important opportunity to work towards a consensus on some of the key unresolved issues that could make either Kyoto or an alternative agreement workable in the future.
One of the topics discussed at the G8 Environment Ministerial Meeting held in Trieste, Italy 2-4 March 2001, in preparation for Genoa 2001 was the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) to take place in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2002. At this stage, the G8 Environment Ministers are setting the agenda and outlining goals for the WSSD. They have indicated that "the WSSD should identify ways to promote better integration and coherence between the global development agenda, poverty eradication, and global environment protection". As such, important issues will be sustainable energy and water, which largely depends on the outcome of the International Conference on Freshwater (Bonn, 3-7 December 2001), health and environment, and promoting sustainable communities, which was reviewed at a Special Session of the UN General Assembly on 5-6 June.
The G8 Environment Ministers realize that globalization can only be successful if measures to support sustainable development are taken. For this reason, they have placed an emphasis on accountable environmental governance in the international community, which includes making environmental considerations a part of all negotiations of the next WTO round, in order to foster positive links between trade liberalization, environmental protection, and economic and social development. Finally, a specific goal for Genoa will be to complete the implementation of common environmental guidelines for Export Credit Agencies, a commitment that was taken in Cologne and Okinawa.
The objective of protecting human health and preventing environmental-related diseases are fundamental objectives of future environmental policy and are of increasing international importance for the G8 member countries. The Communiqué of the recent G8 Environmental Ministers Meeting in Trieste, indicates a need for future policy to lean towards the promotion and integration of environmental and health considerations.
The central themes that will be of most concern for member countries are water quality, air quality and food quality. Water quality will focus on the safety of drinking water and sanitation. Air quality will focus upon urban areas to reduce levels of smog and particulate matter. Finally, food quality is of utmost importance for the member countries in maintaining effective food safety systems.
The Communiqué outlined continued strengthening of co-operation of international and national agencies along with UNEP, FAO, and WHO. Furthermore the continued strengthening and promotion of partnerships within the governments and international industries.
Another area of concern was the protection of health for children, the elderly, pregnant women and indigenous people, all of whom are most susceptible to environmental-related health risks.
The communiqué underlines the consequences of air pollution and its health related risks. It encourages the member countries to support the promotion of sustainable cities, which place emphasis on urban and regional planing and a national innovation policy for the transportation sector.
Prepared by: Bryn Gray, Marilena Liguori, and Lara Mancini
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