G8 Flip Flops on Climate, Energy

by William Yeatman on June 16, 2008

In the final week of May, environmental ministers from the world’s richest industrialized nations met to prepare a common international climate policy in advance of the G8 Summit this July in Japan. After three days of talks, they agreed on a long-term target of halving global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and the meeting chairman told reporters that there was “strong political will” among the G8 countries to meet this ambitious goal.  The following week, energy ministers from these same nations met to prepare a common international energy policy in advance of the G8 Summit. In a joint statement, the ministers expressed “serious concerns” over the high price of oil, and they asked major oil producers “to increase investment to keep markets well supplied in response to rising world demand.”  

Of course, “well supplied” oil markets are antithetical to emissions reductions, because cheaper oil means more of it will be used, thereby resulting in more greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, the most popular climate change solution among G8 countries—a “cap-and-trade” scheme—is designed to increase the price of gas, so that consumers use less and emit less.

The G8 can have emissions cuts and expensive oil, or emissions increases and cheap oil, but it can’t have both.

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