5 April 2009: The G20, the Wilkins ice shelf and President Obama

This has been a mixed but not particularly good week for the climate. The G20 meeting in London may have been good for the global economy – it’s far too soon to know what the effects will be – but climate change was just a footnote. This was an opportunity to inject momentum into the negotiations leading to the December Copenhagen Summit, but the palpable lack of interest from the 20 leaders has actually set the negotiations back.

Then we got news that the enormous Wilkins ice shelf in Antarctica is now barely attached to land. The ice attaching it to Charcot Island is rapidly collapsing and threatening to break. The Wilkins shelf – the size of the US state of Connecticut – is the largest slab of ice so far to disintegrate in the Antarctic.

But the week ended on a much more positive note due, not surprisingly, to President Obama. He has promised to begin international negotiations for a nuclear weapons free world. On Sunday 5 April, he also proposed a global ban on the production of weapons-grade fissile material and the establishment of an international ‘fuel bank’ to supply and monitor enriched uranium for civil nuclear power generation. This is in line with the Kissinger/Nunn initiative. The enormous amount of money wasted on nuclear weapons – which Kissinger has described as “obsolete” – should be invested instead in developing a low carbon economy.

There is an important opportunity now to ensure that the trillion dollar G20 deal provides substantial funds for renewable energy, which can provide safe, secure and plentiful energy. Some of the money should also be used to improve energy efficiency in existing buildings and factories, as this is the quickest way to cut carbon emissions and, if done globally, would also create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

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