|G8 Looks to Greener White House to Lead on Global Warming|
By Gina Doggett
April 22, 2009
The environment ministers of rich and emerging nations
were looking Wednesday to Washington for new leadership at talks in Sicily on
combatting global warming.
"We are all encouraged by the new position of the United States," Italian host
Stefania Prestigiacamo said as the three-day meeting kicked off. "It is an
important signal on the issues of the environment and technology."
The start of the talks coincided with Earth Day, an occasion US President Barack
Obama used to launch a push for historic climate change legislation in the United States.
"The American people are ready to be part of a mission," Obama said in a speech
in the Midwestern state of Iowa.
The United States is jockeying with China for the dubious distinction of the
world's number one carbon polluter.
Green and humanitarian groups at the Sicily talks were also hopeful over the new
US administration's green overtures after Obama's predecessor George W. Bush
rejected the Kyoto Treaty on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
"The involvement of the United States gives some new opportunities for
agreement," said Kim Carstensen, director of Worldwide Fund for Nature's Global
Climate Initiative. "The United States is willing to engage," he told AFP.
Carstensen warned however: "It's not a done deal that a progressive American
stance will just be accepted. There will be a lot of political fighting inside
the United States."
The three-day meeting at Syracuse's medieval Castello Maniace brings together
countries responsible for more than 40 percent of the world's carbon gas emissions.
The administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson, was
expected in Syracuse on Thursday on her first international trip in the job.
Last week, in a landmark turnaround that could impact US climate change
regulation, Jackson's EPA deemed carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases a health risk.
The move marks a significant shift on climate change from the Bush
administration, which failed to heed EPA warnings on the possibly devastating
consequences of inaction.
The British charity Oxfam said Wednesday that if the G8 failed to take the lead
in the fight against global warming it would endanger hundreds of millions of
"We have reached a crossroads, and rich countries get to choose the route we all
take," said Antonio Hill, a senior policy advisor for Oxfam.
"One route leads us out of today's economic and climate crises and towards a low
carbon future; the other spells disaster for hundreds of millions of people
across the globe," he said.
"We need governments to raise their game," said Oxfam International Executive
Director Jeremy Hobbs, calling on wealthy countries to provide at least 50
billion dollars (38.5 billion euros) a year to help poor countries adapt to
unavoidable climate change.
The G8 groups Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the
The G8 is one of several forums on the way to a UN meeting in Copenhagen in
December aimed at sealing an international pact for curbing greenhouse gases
beyond 2012, when Kyoto expires.
The United Nations' top climate change official, Yvo de Boer, said: "Between
today and Copenhagen we have to make concrete progress, and at a high level."
The G8 ministers have been joined by their counterparts from China, India,
Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, South Africa, South Korea and Egypt.
The Czech Republic -- current holder of the rotating European Union presidency
-- plus the European Commission and Denmark as host of the upcoming Copenhagen
conference are also attending the talks.
The Bush administration maintained that Kyoto would be too costly for American
businesses to implement and demanded that developing countries should do more.
The UN goal is either to halve emissions compared with a benchmark year, or to
peg temperature increases below 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit)
compared to pre-industrial times.