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G8 endorses halving global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050

by Bathandwa Mbola
on 09 Jul 2008
BuaNews Online
BuaNews Online

World leaders attending the Group of Eight (G8) Summit have agreed to back a plan for long-term reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, although the deal fell short of establishing targets.

"Climate change is one of the great global challenges of our time," the leaders said in a statement issued on Wednesday.

Negotiators discussed the issue late into the night in the mountainous resort of Toyako at the summit of the G8 major industrial powers, with host Japan pressing for progress on the summit's most contentious issue.

The leaders of the G8, which are Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States, together with leaders of the fastest developing countries agreed that the world should at least halve the emissions blamed for climate change by 2050.

"We, the leaders of the world's major economies, both developed and developing, commit to combat climate change in accordance with our common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities," representatives said.

Climate change has been one of the stickiest issues tackled at the summit with divisions over what targets should be set and what would be expected of developing countries.

To achieve absolute emissions reductions, the G8 will implement "ambitious economy-wide mid-term goals".

In addition, they pointed to new multilateral climate investment funds that have been set up to assist the efforts of developing countries.

As part of the agreement, the G8 will set up a new international initiative for the research and development of innovative technologies to contribute to the realisation of a low-carbon society.

The leaders agreed to establish and hold an energy forum to focus on energy efficiency and new technologies.

However the G8 did not set any firm targets for the nearer term as the leaders pressed for developing countries to make their own commitments to cut carbon emissions.

This caused some environmental advocates to be critical of the G8 declaration.

The target of halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 was described as "pathetic" and "dangerously short of what is needed" by Kim Carstensen, Director of WWF's Global Climate Initiative.

In a statement, WWF accused G8 leaders of failing to boost international climate negotiations and criticised what they termed the "lack of commitment to mid-term targets".

South African and Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk has also raised concerns.

He said: "As it is expressed in the G8 statement, the long-term goal is an empty slogan without substance."

The goal fell short of what was required, according to scientific near-consensus, "to stabilise the atmosphere at a relatively stable level".

The showdown between the world's richest nations and the fastest-growing economies which are South Africa, China, India, Brazil and Mexico went beyond climate change to cover disputes over how to cope with record oil and food prices.

They expressed serious concerns at the threat posed to the global economy by soaring oil prices.

The price of crude oil has doubled since the last G8 summit, with highs of more than $146 (€72) a barrel.

However they remained positive about the long-term resilience of their economies, so long as countries resisted the introduction of trade barriers.

The leaders also discussed various issues such as improvement of energy efficiency, greater use of clean energy, adaptation, technology, finance, market-based mechanisms and tariff reduction.

On energy efficiency, they welcomed the recent decision to establish the International Partnership for Energy Efficiency Cooperation.

With renewables, they underscored the importance of sustainable biofuel production and use including science-based benchmarks and indicators and are committed to continuing research and development of second generation biofuel technologies. - BuaNews

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