Commentary G8 Summit preview

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With the 2008 G8 summit fast approaching, has looked ahead at the possible outcomes on climate change.

Included in their interviews with “world leaders working at the sharp end of combating climate change” was E3G’s own Tom Burke.

The environmental policy advisor: Tom Burke

Tom Burke is a British environmental policy advisor to Rio Tinto plc, one of the world’s largest mining and resource companies. He is also the founding director of E3G, a not for profit organization that works to promote sustainable development. As well as chairing numerous environmental forums, he was formerly the executive director of Friends of the Earth.

CNN: What do you expect from the G8 summit?

Burke: Unless the developing world see the developed world as being serious about climate change then it’s going to be very hard to get agreements in Copenhagen [UN climate change conference in 2009] and right now China, India and other countries look at what we’re doing rather than what we’re saying and they quite correctly come to the conclusion that we’re not serious.

The way we indicated that we’re serious is by putting real money into the carbon capture and storage (CCS) demonstration projects.

That would help create the political conditions under which agreement can be met in Copenhagen. My personal view is that I don’t think the political conditions are really there, so what you’ll get in Toyako is just more words. You won’t get a decision, just words they can all live with and sound as if something serious is going to happen, but it won’t amount to a real political bargain which is what ought to come out of the G8.

The leaders should all go home and put some real money in CCS. It just needs the current leaders to recognize that this is a problem that threatens the prosperity and security of every single citizen in their countries, and they’re not doing very much about it yet. There’s been a build up from the G8 energy ministers meeting [in early June] that carbon capture and storage (CCS) is an imperative and not an option. Coal is going to get burnt and if that coal gets burnt without carbon capture and storage then you accelerate climate change beyond the bounds of reason.

We’ve got to stop dithering on CCS and recognize it’s an imperative and what we really need to do is get the 30 or so demonstration project around the world up and running right away.

That’s the kind of thing you really need to do, and that means spending money. That’s not going to be done by carbon prices or some sort of carbon mechanism, it’s only going to be done if governments decide to spend the money to accelerate the demonstration projects right away.

CNN: What would you say to the G8 leaders?

Burke: The short version is: “Stop stealing our kids’ future.”

They really do need to get real about what we have got to do to avoid catastrophic climate change—it’s too late to avoid dangerous climate change—and that means spending massive amounts of money on transforming the energy infrastructure If they want to know what they can do to make a difference right now, go home and spend some money on carbon capture and storage.


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