Major polluters water down climate targets

10th July 2009, Comments 0 comments

The Group of Eight industrialised powers and other major economies had committed to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 but the target is missing from a declaration at the G8 summit.

L'Aquila -- The world's biggest polluters this week dropped a pledge to cut emissions of the gases that cause global warming at a G8 summit here, officials said.

The Group of Eight industrialised powers and other major economies had committed to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. But the target is missing from a declaration at the G8 summit.

"There is indeed a very strong commitment to identify the global goal for substantially reducing global emissions by 2050, but there is no 50 percent" mentioned in a draft declaration, a European Union official said on condition of anonymity.

The 50 percent target was first put in writing at the G8 summit in Japan last year.

US President Barack Obama and other leaders face mounting pressure to make ambitious commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions with the clock ticking ahead of a key December meeting in Copenhagen to set international targets.

Swedish Prime Minister Frederik Reinfeldt, whose country holds the European Union's rotating presidency, stressed that agreeing an over-arching target to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels by 2050 would be crucial.

"The G8 and the major economies forum must endorse the goal of limiting global warming to no more than two degrees," Reinfeldt told journalists shortly before the summit got under way.

Temperatures have already risen by about one degree Celsius worldwide over the last century.

European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso said countries were much closer now to securing agreement on the target than they were a year ago, because the United States was prepared to back it.

"For the first time, now under President Obama, ... the United States accepts the reference of two degrees," he said.

Dropping the emissions target amounts to "ecological suicide," said French climatologist Jean Jouzel. "It's an unimaginable step backwards from the standpoint of climatologists," he told AFP by telephone.

Committing to two degrees "without setting reduction targets makes no sense," said Jouzel, vice president of the International Panel on Climate Change, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.

Analyst Niel Bowerman stressed however that the two percent agreement "implies that you have to set strong mid-term targets."

Until developed countries act, emerging countries are reluctant to set targets, said Bowerman, executive director of the London-based Climatico think tank on climate policy.

"India is not willing to commit to cuts unless the developed countries are willing to make deep cuts by 2020," he said. "Their emphasis is on development and they're not willing to make changes if it will jeopardise their development goals."

The US House of Representatives narrowly approved a Clean Energy Act last month that the Democratic administration says helps to restore US leadership in the battle against climate change after a go-slow posture adopted by Obama's predecessor George W. Bush.

The bill, now before the Senate, aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, and 83 percent by 2050.

The 27-nation EU is aiming to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent from 1990 levels by 2020, increasing to 30 percent if other big polluters make ambitious commitments in Copenhagen.

Making progress in L'Aquila is crucial to the success of the Copenhagen meeting because the countries represented here generate 80 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for "ambitious" targets against global warming, saying that developed countries should lead the way.

"We're not going to make progress globally until all of us are acting," US presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs said.


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