|The world's biggest carbon polluters - 16
economies which, together, account for 80 percent of global
greenhouse-gas emissions are meeting in Paris on Thursday
and Friday of this week, taking the next steps in a journey
that may eventually lead to a new pact for tackling climate
The 'Major Economies Meeting' (MEM) is the
third in a series launched last September by President George
W. Bush. He wants to identify a long-term overall goal for
global-warming gases and sketch ways for curbing pollution
through a voluntary approach, embracing big energy-burning
industries and smart technology.
Bush's initiative at first ran into deep suspicion from European
countries and developing countries - some of whom eyed it
as an attempt to subvert the UN process, which requires tougher,
binding commitments from advanced economies and help for poor
ones. Now, however, those fears appear to have evaporated.
Some scientists estimate as few as eight years remain before
worldwide emissions have to peak and then taper sharply downwards,
to avert the worst damage to the planet's climate system.
The over-arching forum for addressing this crisis is de Boer's
UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) - which,
in Bali, agreed to craft a new deal by the end of 2009.
However, progress in the UNFCCC is agonisingly slow, hampered
by a thicket of national interests. Should rich nations, which
gorged on fossil fuels to power their rise to prosperity,
be the ones to pick up the tab, as developing countries argue?
Or, as Bush argues, should the payers include China, India
and other emerging giants, which are fast becoming the major
polluters of tomorrow?
On the sidelines of the UNFCCC process, smaller-scale initiatives
have proliferated like hothouse vegetation to try to speed
things along. There are now seven such parallel processes
- ranging from the Group of Eight (G8) to something called
the 'Midnight Sun Dialogue'. Common to all of them
is the United States, which is the world's biggest single
polluter but - alone among the advanced economies - has refused
binding emissions curbs.
No-one is expecting a breakthrough at the Paris MEM, but
sources say it could help take a machete to the negotiation
European suspicions over the Bush initiative have been replaced
by surprising warmth towards its format. Informality and plain
talk among a small group of participants are a refreshing
change from jargon, posturing and points-of-order at global
The MEM is working on a 'leaders' declaration' to
be published at the G8 summit in Japan in July and on a raft
of recommendations to be handed to the UNFCCC - US diplomats
Taking part in Paris are - Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada,
China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South
Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa and the United States.
The institutions of the United Nations and the European Union
are also represented.