G8 bears witness to growing nuclear interest

08 July 2008

G8 Hokkaido 2008


G8 leaders are seeking a global target of a 50% cut of carbon emissions by 2050, but have stopped short of an outright endorsement of nuclear energy as a means of tackling climate change. The group has acknowledged that a growing number of countries see it that way.


In its Environment and Climate Change statement, released during the G8 Hokkaido summit, the leaders jointly called for a global goal of at least a 50% cut in carbon emissions by 2050, calling on all parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to "consider and adopt... the goal of achieving at least 50% reduction of global emissions by 2050." While acknowledging that G8 countries must take the lead, with each of the G8 nations implementing "ambitious, economy-wide" goals in the medium term, the statement is clear that the response to carbon emissions must be on a global scale.


Only one country - Germany - does not openly support the widespread use of nuclear power in the context of climate change, but the statement did not go as far as openly endorsing nuclear. Instead, according to the statement, "We witness that a


  "A country that has
  the capability to 
  responsibly use nuclear 
  has a responsibility to do
  so, if we want to get
  serious about not just
  cutting greenhouse gas
  emissions, but also
  improving public health
  through reduced air


  James Connaughton, chairman, 
  White House Council on
  Environmental Quality


 growing number of countries have expressed their interest in nuclear power programs as a means to addressing climate change and energy security concerns." However, the group has said it will launch an international initiative on '3S-based' nuclear energy infrastructure.


3S is taken from Safeguards (that is, nuclear non-proliferation), Safety and Security. The G8 initiative proposed by Japan notes that as an ever increasing number of countries turn to or consider turning to nuclear power, there is a growing need to establish common ground on the importance of 3S. The initiative, which will be in cooperation with or complementary to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) activities, will amongst other things encompass actions on sharing good practice, experience and information, identifying infrastructure development areas that could be improved through international cooperation, and implementing bilateral and multilateral projects to support infrastructure.


Germany discordant


Germany, with its plans to phase out its nuclear power stations, now stands alone amongst the G8 since the announcement of pro-nuclear stances by Italy and the UK. Chancellor Angela Merkel may not personally agree with her country's phase-out plans - she has openly admitted that the decision was the wrong one - but her country's stance introduced a discordant note into the G8 proceedings.


Speaking on the fringes of the summit, Merkel was keen to point out that nuclear was no panacea. According to a report in the International Herald Tribune, Merkel said "I don't think that climate protection is decided by the question of nuclear energy alone." Her comments followed a remark by James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, who said: "A country that has the capability to responsibly use nuclear energy in my view has a responsibility to do so, if we want to get serious about not just cutting greenhouse gas emissions, but also improving public health through reduced air pollution."


Attending the Hokkaido summit, which ends on 9 July, are leaders of the G8 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the UK, and the USA) plus the president of the European Commission.