There have been quite a few important meetings lately including COAG, G8 and the Major Economies Meeting on Energy Security and Climate Change (MEM) in Japan, attended by Kevin Rudd. Anyone expecting substantial progress to come out of these particular meetings was surely disappointed. But to look on the bright side, if any of these meetings had been held even a year ago, the results would have represented a substantial breakthrough.
Starting with COAG, the obvious disappointment was the lack of any immediate response to the drastic problems facing the Murray-Darling system. While most of the policies are now pointing in the right direction, nothing will really happen until 2009. The decision not to increase the amount of water that could be traded out of a region from 4 per cent to 6 per cent (still a tight restriction) was symbolic of the process as a whole. That said, there is currently so little water in the system that no amount of reform is going to do much good in the short run. We have to hope for the best.
The Major Emitters Meeting produced fairly predictable statements by China and India that the developed countries had to do more. With the US still to make any firm commitment, we’re unlikely to see much advance on that before the Copenhagen meeting, with a new Administration, next year. Still, that was accompanied by an acceptance in principle of targets for reduced emissions. And at least in one respect, these countries are walking the walk. Fuel subsidies in Asia are being cut in response to increased costs associated with higher oil prices. That’s a pretty sharp contrast with proposals for new concessions coming from (among others), Clinton and McCain in the US and Nelson and Turnbull here.
Finally, although the G8 proposal for a 50 per cent in global emissions by 2050 was carefully hedged, it’s still good news. Although this wasn’t spelt out a 50 per cent in global emissions requires a much bigger cut in developed country emissions, so even a weak commitment now will make backsliding harder in Copenhagen.