At the end of the week, the Energy Ministers from eight of the richest and most powerful countries are going to be meeting in Detroit. Their meeting is part of the lead up to the G8 Summit that will take place in Alberta at the end of June. With climate change, the Kyoto Protocol, American energy policy, the upcoming Earth Summit and the lack of modern energy services for more than 2 billion people as serious global issues right now, this is an important meeting.
However, as the Ministers prepare for their two day meeting in the global headquarters of General Motors in Detroit, it’s not hard to see who is setting the global energy agenda.
Greenpeace and local citizens groups have been vocal in expressing their concern that the G8 is acting on behalf of powerful corporations, rather than on behalf of the citizens who elected them. A number of events are being planned in Detroit by community groups and Greenpeace.
In particular, Greenpeace is concerned that big oil companies like Esso/Exxon are successfully exercising their might to block progress in combating global climate change, a crisis faced by the North and South alike.
Normally, because Canada is the current G8 chair, it would host the meeting. However, it seems Canada has given in to the demands of its powerful southern neighbor, one of the staunchest opponents of the Kyoto Protocol and renewable energy.
What the ministers ironically refer to as ‘energy security’ is at the top of their agenda this week. However, they fail to recognize that in a world in which 2 billion people do not have access to modern energy services and in a world characterized by increasing numbers of environmental disasters that are the result of human-induced climate change, there cannot be ‘energy security’ unless we adopt new approaches to developing and providing energy – namely renewable energy.
The G8 itself has recognized this. At their 2000 Summit in Okinawa, Japan they set up a Task Force on Renewable Energy. Last year, when the Task Force issued their recommendations, the U.S. and Canada mounted a strong opposition. While the report is far from flawless, there are some worthy recommendations including that: i) G8 countries take steps to remove incentives for environmentally harmful energy technologies and ii) one billion of the two billion people currently without access to modern energy services be provided with renewable energy within a decade. The report was due to be approved at the 2001 Summit in Genoa, Italy, but was shelved thanks to Canadian and US opposition.
Shelving this report in the same year as an Earth Summit dedicated to sustainable development is utterly hypocritical. The hypocrisy becomes more exposed when one considers Bush and Esso oppose Kyoto supposedly because its first phase excludes developing countries – but also oppose measures to help those countries develop in a sustainable, clean manner.
Greenpeace is calling on the G8 energy ministers to commit to a project that will kick-start the necessary revolution in renewable energy by placing the interests of real people and the planet before the interests of big oil. As we move closer and closer to the Earth Summit in Johannesburg in August, it is crucial that G8 countries take concrete action now to ensure that corporate interests do not take over the quest for sustainable development.