At their annual meeting in L'Aquila, the G8 leaders agreed to join a global response to achieve a 50 percent reduction in global emissions by 2050.
The two degree Celsius goal was accepted for the first time today by the Canada, Japan, Russia and the United States. It was adopted earlier by the European Union and its G8 members Britain, France, Germany and Italy.
This steep reduction over the next 40 years is in line with the broad scientific view that the increase in global average temperature above pre-industrial levels should not exceed two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).
Scientists from around the world stated in 2007 that the global surface temperature has increased by 0.76 degrees Celsius (1.3 degrees F) since the Industrial Revolution began in 1750.
G8 leaders from left: Japanese President Taro Aso, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, U.S. President Barack Obama, French President Nicholas Sarkozy, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Russian President Dimitry Medvedev, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown (Photo courtesy G8)
Today, leaders from the Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States pledged to confront climate change, and committed to seek an "ambitious global agreement" at the United Nations climate conference in Copenhagen in December.
There, all world leaders are expected to finalize an agreement limiting greenhouse gas emissions to replace the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi told reporters that tomorrow the G8 joint stance on the climate change issue will be submitted to an extended forum including the G5 emerging economies - China, India, Brazil, South Africa and Mexico.
"Europe and the United States are in favor of cutting carbon dioxide emissions and will adopt a united stance vis-a-vis the emerging economies with a view to arriving at a pledge into which everyone must enter," Berlusconi said.
The date of the agreement's entry into force is still under discussion, the prime minister reported.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown hailed the agreement as "historic." the agreement to cap global temperature rises by two degrees Celsius and cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050.
Brown said the deal paves the way for a global agreement to be made at the UN climate conference in Copenhagen. "For the first time, the G8 has agreed what I believe are vital decisions that take us on the road to Copenhagen and change the way we look at energy policy in the future," he said.
The Prime Minister said he hopes to secure a similar agreement from the "plus five" group of emerging economies tomorrow.
But Chinese President Hu Jintao flew home today to deal with an outbreak of ethnic violence in western China, leaving the question of Chinese participation in greenhouse gas reductions in limbo.
G8 leaders "bridged the gap in their positions on global climate change," Russian presidential aide Arkady Dvorkovich said today.
"The discussion in climate is of a political nature in the first place. We are fully aware of the fact that no one wants to sacrifice its economic growth for the sake of hazardous emission cuts, but this time there more progress in bridging the gap in the positions of the G8 and the Group of Five as compared to last year's summit in Tokyo," Dvorkovich said.
U.S. President Barack Obama enters the G8 meeting hall in L'Aquila, Italy. (Photo courtesy G8)
He noted "a major change in the U.S. position" from the previous administration. The Americans agreed that scientific conclusions regarding emissions are not to be questioned, but the problem can be solved only together, Dvorkovich told the Russian state news agency ITAR-Tass.
He quoted President Dmitry Medvedev as saying that "We should move towards the goal of emission reduction, but we won't make much progress without China and India."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed the new commitment of the United States on climate protection. "The legislative advance made by the government of President Barack Obama last week was considerable, but also inevitable," she said, referring to the House of Representatives' vote to adopt a a climate change bill establishing a cap-and-trade system for the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. The European Union already has a functioning carbon market in place.
The United States intends to reduce its CO2 emissions by 17 percent by 2020 compared with 2005. The European Union has already committed itself to 20 percent compared with 1990, and if others join in, this rises to 30 percent.
"Europe has the clear lead in this regard," said Chancellor Merkel. "And its function as a role model is essential, too," she added. Even if the Europeans reduce greenhouse gas emissions not just by 80 but by 100 percent by 2050, she acknowledged that the two degrees Celsius initiative cannot be successful without the emerging economies.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said, "We are only some 150 days away from Copenhagen. We should not forget that we have to make progress now to enable us to seal the deal there in Copenhagen."
"A key part of the solution will be financing of the fight against climate change," said Barroso. "The EU will come forward with proposals in good time on financing, and we are ready to play our full part."
"As the largest contributors to past emissions, developed countries have a special responsibility to take the lead. But this is not going to be enough," Barroso said. "The emerging economies, for example, where growth in emissions is surging, must also join in the effort. We must all do our part, in line with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities."
The government leaders are meeting at L'Aquila which was devastated by a severe earthquake on April 6 along with the surrounding Abruzzo region. Over 65,000 people were left homeless by the earthquake and close to 300 lost their lives.
Copyright Environment News Service, ENS, 2009. All rights reserved.