G8 Leaders Agree to Substantial Cuts in Climate Emissions

HEILIGENDAMM, Germany, June 7, 2007 (ENS) - Six of the world's eight largest industrialized nations today agreed to "at least halve global carbon dioxide emissions by 2050" and to achieve this goal together "as part of a United Nations process." The United States and Russia were the only G8 holdouts. As a compromise, all eight nations agreed to "substantial" emissions cuts.

Even though the agreement is not legally binding, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she is sure that "no one can escape this declaration."

The Chancellor said it is "a great success" that all eight of the G8 countries now acknowledge the results of the United Nations' most recent climate report. President George W. Bush has for years been reluctant to accept the findings of this international group of 2,500 scientists.

The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that global warming is largely the result of human activity. Only by limiting carbon dioxide emissions will it be possible to stop global warming.

In order to avoid wide-ranging consequences, international experts believe that it is absolutely essential that global warming be limited to 1.5 to 2.5 degrees Celsius. Scientists say that deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are necessary to achieve such limits.

The G8 Leaders in Heiligendamm today. From left: Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, European Commission President Jose Barroso, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, U.S. President George W. Bush. (Photo courtesy REGIERUNGonline / Kühler)
Merkel called the agreement "the most important decision for the coming two years," saying that many participants had "moved their positions quite considerably."

The agreement that binding goals on reducing emissions are necessary is "an important signal," Merkel said.

The resolutions adopted by the EU, Japan and Canada form the basis of the agreement reached on climate protection at Heiligendamm.

The approach suggested by the United States was added to this, namely of incorporating the biggest greenhouse gas emitters outside the United States, especially China and India.

The Kyoto Protocol now covers more than 160 countries and over 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, but as developing countries China, India and other emerging economies do not have emissions limits under the protocol.

The leaders of China, India and other developng countries - Brazil, Mexico and South Africa - will meet with the G8 leaders tomorrow in Heiligendamm.

During the discussion of climate problems, Russian President Vladimir Putin called for joint action after 2012, when the Kyoto protocol expires. He said these actions should involve the countries that are the largest emitters of carbon dioxide.

Russia's ratification of the Kyoto Protocol brought the agreement over the threshold for implementation.

The environment ministers of countries that have ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC, which include most countries of the world, can now negotiate details of how these global reductions goals are to be achieved.

The Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC expires in 2012. Until today, it was not clear what a post-Kyoto Protocol regulation was to be based on. Merkel said that based on the G8 agreement reached today, "the successor agreement is to be adopted by 2009 and to contribute to the agreed UN process."

In parallel to the UN process, groups of countries can reach additional agreements on how the common goal is to be achieved, Merkel explained.

Commenting on the G8's climate change agreement, Martin Rees, president of the British Royal Society said, "The failure to agree a target means that industry and investors will continue to face uncertainty concerning what kind of emission reductions they will be expected to achieve," said Rees. "In the face of such ambiguity there is a danger that the G8 nations will continue to 'emit as usual' and lose the full benefits of early cost-effective action."

Friends of the Earth International Climate Change campaigner Yuri Onodera said, "We have already seen many empty promises by G8 leaders over the past years but there has not been much real action, so we urge G8 leaders to act now and cut their greenhouse gas emissions drastically and immediately."

"The U.S. administration, which continuously obstructed the fight against climate change, did not manage to prevent world leaders here from pledging that they will take multilateral action," said Onodera.

Greenpeace U.S.A. blamed the Bush administration for the G8's failure to reach unanimous agreement on a numerical target for greenhouse gas emissions cuts.

"The compromise represents a missed opportunity, presenting the U.S. Congress with an urgent call to action," the group said.

"Greenpeace supports a limit of global warming to two degrees Celsius and believes that to achieve such a target, global emissions must be cut by at least 50 percent by 2050.

"The U.S. contribution to such a target would be roughly an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions as called for by a growing number of legislators and corporate leaders," Greenpeace said.

But Avril Doyle, a member of the European Parliament's Temporary Committee on Climate Change, said the G8 agreement should not be underestimated.

Doyle welcomed the decision of the United States, the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, to agree to pursue their climate change plans within the UN process rather than establishing their own negotiating structure.

Doyle said, "The inclusion of the U.S. is particularly good news. As we wait for the specific details of today's agreement to unfold, we should not underestimate the importance of having the U.S. at the table as critical decisions are taken on the way forward."

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.