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UN Chief says G8 missed a 'unique' opportunity


Video by Sarah DRURY

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-07-10

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has said the G8 has missed a 'unique' opportunity to deal decisively with climate change, while US President Barack Obama countered that there was still time to close the gap with developing powers.

REUTERS - U.S. President Barack Obama said on Thursday there was still time to close the gap with developing powers on climate change, after the U.N. chief criticised the G8 for not going hard enough.

On the first day of a meeting of the Group of Eight major industrialised nations in L'Aquila in Italy, the G8 failed to get China and India to accept the goal of halving emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050.

Obama, hoping to make his mark on his first G8 summit by chairing a meeting of rich and emerging powers on the environment, said progress could still be made before talks on a new U.N. climate change treaty in Copenhagen in December.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Obama told Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva that "there was still time in which they could close the gap on that disagreement in time for that important (meeting)".

Obama was due to chair the 17-member Major Economies Forum (MEF), which was likely to agree to try to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) versus pre-industrial levels but not to agree on the scale of emission cuts.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said progress on climate change at the G8 was "not enough" so far.

"This is politically and morally (an) imperative and historic responsibility ... for the future of humanity, even for the future of the planet Earth," the U.N. chief said.

Progress was hampered by the absence of Chinese President Hu Jintao, who left L'Aquila to attend to ethnic clashes in China's northwest that have killed 156 people.

Sharing the burden

Temperatures have risen by about 0.7 Celsius since the Industrial Revolution ushered in widespread use of fossil fuels.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he hoped the temperature target would be agreed by "all the countries around the table today" -- the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Canada and Russia, plus emerging powers like China, India, Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia and Mexico.

But one G8 source said it was "not realistic" to expect a deal on emissions. India said developing countries first wanted to see rich nation plans to provide financing to help them cope with ever more floods, heatwaves, storms and rising sea levels. They also want to see rich nations make deeper cuts by 2020.

G8 countries agreed among themselves on a goal of cutting global emissions by 50 percent by 2050, with the United States accepting this for the first time. They also set a reduction goal of 80 percent in aggregate for developed countries.

But G8 member Russia immediately said it could not hit this target by 2050 and Canada's Environment Minister Jim Prentice said 80 percent was an "aspirational goal".

Economy, currencies, trade

The fragile state of the world economy dominated the first day of the summit, with rich nations acknowledging there were still significant risks to financial stability.

China used the broader forum on the second day to make its argument -- backed by Russia, India and Brazil -- for long-term diversification of the global reserve currency system away from reliance on the dollar, a sensitive issue on currency markets.

"We should have a better system for reserve currency issuance and regulation, so that we can maintain relative stability of major reserve currencies' exchange rates and promote a diversified rational international reserve currency regime," said State Councillor Dai Bingguo, according to aides.

The G8 and G5 did hope for progress on the stalled Doha trade talks, with agreement possible on concluding them by 2010. Launched in 2001 to help poor countries prosper, the Doha round has stumbled on proposed tariff and subsidy cuts.

The G5 said it was committed to addressing outstanding problems on Doha which would provide "a major stimulus to the restoration of confidence in world markets". But it urged rich nations to remove trade barriers and restore credit to poor countries.

Date created : 2009-07-09