G8 Environment Ministers Agree on 2050 Climate Goal

KOBE, Japan, May 27, 2008 (ENS) – Environment ministers from the Group of Eight industrialized nations concluded a three-day meeting in Kobe Monday with an agreement on the long-term goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050.

But the ministers failed to support specific emissions reduction targets for 2020, as recommended last year by an international body of climate scientists, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC.

Still, the G8 environment ministers said there is “strong political will” to reduce the greenhouse gases responsible for climate change during the G8 leaders annual summit set for July 7 to 9 on the Japanese island of Hokkaido.

“Last year, the G8 leaders agreed to seriously consider reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least half by 2050. Strong political will was expressed to go beyond this agreement and reach agreement on a shared vision of long-term global goals at the G8 Hokkaido summit,” says the chairman’s summary of the meeting.

Developed countries should take the lead in achieving a significant reduction, the summary adds.

On Sunday, Japanese Environment Minister Ichiro Kamoshita called for the launch of an international network of institutions to facilitate the transition to low-carbon societies, a prerequisite to achieving any greenhouse gas reduction target.

“I hope that this goal will constitute a shared vision among the participating countries to the G-8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit this year,” Kamoshita said in a address to his colleagues. He said the participation of China, India, the United States and other major greenhouse gas emitters is crucial to the success of the initiative.

Japan’s Environment Minister Ichiro Kamoshita,
center is surrounded by G8 environment
ministers and outreach delegates
wearing traditional Japanese happi
coats. May 24, 2008

But the United States, as the only member of the G8 not to have ratified the Kyoto Protocol on limiting greenhouse gas emissions, resisted setting any medium term target for the year 2020.

Kamoshita and Scott Fulton, deputy assistant administrator with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, maintained that it is too early for the G8 to set midterm targets. They said such commitments should be the result of negotiations between now and 2009 that will lead to a climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

Environment ministers from Britain and Canada expressed a sense of urgency in Kobe about moving forward toward a medium-term reduction target agreement by then.

The European Union has pledged a 20 percent emissions reduction by 2020, and has offered to raise it to 30 percent if other nations sign on.

“We need long-term and midterm reduction targets, as well as national action plans to achieve those targets,” said German Environment Minister Matthias Machnig at a news conference Monday morning.

Kamoshita said more study is needed. “For midterm reduction targets, the important issue is how to take the IPCC knowledge into consideration to come up with a viable target. At this point in time, I’m not sure it’s appropriate to cite specific figures at the negotiation table.”

Winding up the meeting Monday, Kamoshita said, “I believe the agreement achieved at the meeting will be a major force behind the upcoming G8 summit in Toyako, Hokkaido. The agreement is also expected to help international efforts in establishing a new framework to fight global warming.”

In addition to climate change, the G8 environment ministers agreed that their governments should come up with national action plans and implementation strategies to protect biodiversity, in line with an international biodiversity conference taking place this week in Bonn. They said biodiversity and climate change are closely related issues.

The Group of Eight, G8, is an international forum for the governments of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States to discuss issues of common concern. Though the group’s origins date back to the early 1970s, it did not become the Group of Eight until 1997 when Russia formally joined.

Along with the G8 environment ministers and the European Commission, nine other countries participated in the Kobe event, including Antigua and Barbuda representing small island states, Australia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Korea, and South Africa.

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