G8 Summit Misses the Mark on Cleantech


The leaders of the world’s richest countries have squandered yet another opportunity to lead the global community when it comes to climate change. The G8 Summit in Japan has issued a classically vague and nonbinding statement endorsing the idea of halving carbon emissions by 2050, a goal well below the emissions cuts proposed by leaders of many of the G8 nations.

The declaration on the environment and climate change gives a lot of lip service to various “low-carbon technologies” but offers little in terms of new policy to help facilitate development and deployment.

More baffling is the way in which the statement names certain technologies and omits others. Nuclear and biofuels receive strong commendations, while wind and solar fail to get a single mention. Meanwhile clean coal technologies, including carbon capture and sequestration, are given a whole paragraph, in which there resides one of the most clearly worded assertions: “We strongly support the launching of 20 large-scale CCS demonstration projects globally by 2010, taking into account various national circumstances, with a view to beginning broad deployment of CCS by 2020.”

The G8 also pats itself on the back for the $10 billion a year its members “have so far pledged over the next several years…in direct government-funded R&D.” The statement goes on to say that G8 members would “agree to take various policy and regulatory measures to provide incentives for commercializing these technologies.” For the U.S., this would mean extending the tax credits that are keeping solar and wind projects in the black, but those tax credit renewals are still languishing in Congressional partisanship.

For cleantech, the declaration amounts to little more than a call to “hurry up and wait.” The statement says “all major economies will need to commit to meaningful mitigation actions to be bound in the international agreement to be negotiated by the end of 2009,” those “major economies” meaning China and India. The waiting is supposed to end in 2009 when the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change convenes in Copenhagen to thrash out the next step after the Kyoto Protocol. Until then, the global cleantech community will have to make do with uncertain national policies.

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