G8 leaders set out a "vision" of a 50% target cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, but failed to produce any immediate commitments. Hours later, emerging economies urged the richest countries to set the example by doing more, faster.
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The leaders of the world's eight richest nations have set a long-term target to reduce global warming, agreeing to halve current greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda announced the decision at the G8 summit in Toyako, adding that the objective was conditional upon the participation of emerging countries. "Needless to say, we cannot achieve the long-term goal without contributions from other major emitters," he said.
US President George W. Bush joined the other G8 leaders in the declaration. The United States has previously refused to pledge itself to reducing emissions unless emerging economies such as India and China sign on too.
"This is a strong signal to citizens around the world," said European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.
Yet the cautious wording of the G8 statement on climate change does not include any formal commitment from the eight countries (Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States).
"They can set all the targets they want," Oliver Griffith, managing director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Paris, commented on FRANCE 24. "Implementation is what's important."
After the Kyoto Protocol
The 50% objective is intended to serve as the G8’s proposal in next year’s Copenhagen summit. Under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), world nations will then gather to establish a new global agreement to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which was never fully implemented following the US’s refusal to ratify it.
"We seek to share with all parties to the UNFCCC the vision of, and together with them to consider and adopt in the UNFCCC negotiations, the goal of achieving at least 50% reduction of global emissions by 2050, recognizing that this global challenge can only be met by a global response", the G8 statement read.
Each country is expected to set individual mid-term targets to reach the overall objective. The G8 declaration states that emissions reductions should take place "within a time frame that should be compatible with economic growth and energy security".
In a further limitation to the objective, Fukuda stated that the target emission cuts were based on current 2008 emissions levels. Environmentalists insist that they should be based on the substantially lower 1990 levels used as a reference in the Kyoto protocol.
"This vision now has to be turned into strong commitments: that is what the United Nations are asking as they are preparing for the post-Kyoto protocol agreement," said FRANCE 24's correspondent at the G8 summit, Nathalie Tourret.
G8 leaders will try to persuade emerging nations to sign on to the emissions pledge at an extended meeting on Wednesday. Eight other states (Australia, South Korea, China, India, Brazil, South Africa, Mexico, and Indonesia) will participate in the talks. Together, those 16 countries account for 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
"Everybody's going to have to do something," warns Griffith. The compromise will be that the countries which are less developed will have to do less but they'll have to do something."
While it took long negotiations to obtain an agreement among G8 members, a wider deal seems even harder to reach: in an early reaction to the G8 statement, the South African government described the 2050 target as a "regression."
Bargaining started hours after the G8 statement, with a group of five emerging economies calling on developed nations to shoulder the bulk of the cuts by reducing their emissions by 80 to 95% by 2050. In the short term, they asked G8 members to cut their emissions by 25 to 50% from 1990 levels by 2020.
"The main thing to remember is that simply because the US cut down its forests and polluted for its own economic development doesn't mean that these countries should make similar mistakes," Griffith concluded.
Date created : 2008-07-08