17 Major Economies Pledge to Set Greenhouse Gas Limit by December

L’AQUILA, Italy, July 9, 2009 (ENS) – Leaders of the world’s major economies today formally recognized for the first time the scientific view that the increase in global average temperature above pre-industrial levels should not exceed two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees F.) to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of global warming.

Gathering with G8 leaders at their annual meeting in L’Aquila, the major economies group, which includes both developing and industrialized countries, did not announce a numeric target for reducing global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, but did pledge to work towards identifying such a percentage by December.

Then, world leaders meet at the UN climate conference in Copenhagen to finalize a deal to cut emissions that will take over when the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

G8 leaders at their working table, French President Nicholas Sarkozy, left, U.S. President Barack Obama, center. (Photo by Ciro Fusco courtesy ANSA/G8)

Wednesday the G8 nations agreed that by 2050 developed nations will reduce their emissions by 80 percent and also agreed to work with all nations to cut global emissions in half.

“This ambitious effort is consistent with limiting global warming to no more than two degrees Celsius, which, as our declaration explicitly acknowledged for the first time, is what the mainstream of the scientific community has called for,” U.S. President Barack Obama said.

Today, the 17 leaders of Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States said they are “convinced that climate change poses a clear danger requiring an extraordinary global response…”

They agreed to establish, at the earliest possible date, a peak year after which overall global emissions of greenhouse gases will start falling.

The major economies recognized the priority of economic and social development for the developing countries among them and linked it with the urgent need to move quickly to a low-carbon economy.

“Moving to a low-carbon economy is an opportunity to promote continued economic growth and sustainable development,” they said, adding that “the need for and deployment of transformational clean energy technologies at lowest possible cost are urgent…”

These leaders resolved “to spare no effort to reach agreement in Copenhagen, with each other and with the other Parties” to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

But UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was critical of the major economies’ statement, and of the pledge by G8 leaders Wednesday to a long-term goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.

Speaking in L’Aquila, Ban said that this target is not credible without “ambitious mid-term targets, and baselines.”

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrives at G8 talks in one of the electric cars provided for all leaders at the summit. (Photo by Maurizio Brambatti courtesy ANSA/G8)

“In order to achieve such a global goal, developed countries must lead by example in making firm commitments to reduce their emissions by 2020 on the order of the 25 to 40 per cent below 1990 levels that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change tells us is required. It is disappointing to note that thus far, the mid-term emissions targets announced by developed countries in the MEF [Major Economies Forum] are not in this range.”

Ban said the measures put forward by the major economies “while welcome, are not sufficient.”

“The time for delays and half-measures is over,” he said. “The personal leadership of every head of State or government is needed to seize this moment to protect people and the planet from one of the most serious challenges ever to confront humanity.”

The Secretary-General noted that the countries represented in L’Aquila are responsible for more than 80 percent of global emissions, “and that is why they bear special responsibility for finding a solution to the political impasse. If they fail to act this year, they will have squandered a unique historical opportunity that may not come again. We stand at a historical crossroads. Business as usual is no longer viable”

Emerging from the major economies meeting, U.S. President Barack Obama said “we’ve made some important strides forward as we move towards Copenhagen.”

“I don’t think I have to emphasize that climate change is one of the defining challenges of our time,” Obama said. “The science is clear and conclusive, and the impacts can no longer be ignored. Ice sheets are melting. Sea levels are rising. Our oceans are becoming more acidic. And we’ve already seen its effects on weather patterns, our food and water sources, our health and our habitats.”

“Every nation on this planet is at risk, and just as no one nation is responsible for climate change, no one nation can address it alone,” Obama said.

Obama acknowleged the “historic responsibility” of developed countries such as the United States, saying “We have the much larger carbon footprint per capita, and I know that in the past, the United States has sometimes fallen short of meeting our responsibilities. So, let me be clear: those days are over. One of my highest priorities as President is to drive a clean energy transformation of our economy, and over the past six months, the United States has taken steps towards this goal.”
Today, the major economies promised to take other steps to reduce the emission of heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

They pledged to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and to enhance removals of greenhouse gas emissions by forests, including providing enhanced support to developing countries for these purposes.

“We are establishing a Global Partnership to drive transformational low-carbon, climate-friendly technologies,” the major economies said in their declaration.

Specifying technologies such as energy efficiency; solar energy; smart grids; carbon capture, use, and storage; advanced vehicles; high-efficiency and lower-emissions coal technologies; and bio-energy, the major economies said they are aiming to double investments in these and other clean energy technologies by 2015.

Lead countries from the major economies group will report by November 15, 2009, on action plans and roadmaps, and make recommendations for further progress.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown talks to Japanese PM Taro Aso as Barack Obama and Angela Merkel sit in conversation on a balcony at the G8 Summit. July 8, 2009 (Photo courtesy Office of PM Brown)

“Financial resources for mitigation and adaptation will need to be scaled up urgently and substantially and should involve mobilizing resources to support developing countries,” the major economies said.

They said financing to address climate change, particularly in developing countries, will “derive from multiple sources, including both public and private funds and carbon markets.”

An arrangement to match diverse funding needs and resources should be created, and utilize both public and private expertise. They agreed to consider proposals for the establishment of international funding arrangements, including the proposal by Mexico for a Green Fund.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon has proposed a $10 billion green fund as a more efficient way to combat climate change than carbon credits. He says the green fund could be administered by the World Bank or another multilateral agency. It would be funded by contributions from all nations as distinct from funding by the private sector carbon credit market.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has called for a US$100 billion dollar fund to assist developing countries reduce emissions and adapt to climate change.

The governance of mechanisms disbursing funds should be transparent, fair, effective, efficient, and reflect balanced representation, the major economies declared, adding that accountability in the use of resources should be ensured.

But environmentalists were disappointed in the response of the Major Economies Forum. “The failure by MEF to agree on halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 is a sign of mistrust between developed and developing nations,” said Kim Carstensen of the global conservation organization WWF.

“It’s all about money. Rich countries are telling poor nations: oh poor you. But they avoid committing to pay their fair share” Carstensen said. “This is not enough and it is not fair. Wealthy nations have to show true empathy, real leadership, solid financial commitments and not comforting statements.”

In Rome, police arrested 38 demonstrators Tuesday who gathered to protest the Group of Eight summit meeting. Protesters blocked roads and set fire to tires and garbage piles. Later about 50 protesters blocked tracks at Rome’s main train station, throwing stones at police.

Interrogations of 11 people detained in the Rome demonstrations have resulted in charges of aggravated obstruction of officers of the law.

Today in Rome, activists are arriving in the square in front of the train station, chanting slogans in many languages. Police are also present but so far they have maintained a low profile far from the activists.

Activists from Legambiente protest lack of climate action. (Photo courtesy Legambiente)

On Wednesday, more than 100 Greenpeace activists from around the world occupied four coal-fired power stations across Italy, demanding that G8 leaders take meaningful action on climate change.

The sites included the country’s largest single source of carbon dioxide emissions, a power plant in Brindisi, where activists blocked the coal conveyer belts and prevented coal from going into the plant.

Speaking in L’Aquila, Greenpeace USA Executive Director Phil Radford said, “The G8 heads of state must break the deadlock in the climate negotiations and stop blaming developing countries for their own inadequate climate policies.”

In L’Aquila, a demonstration against the G8 has gathered some 200 people at Via Strinella. At the end of the demo a sit-in will be held to protest G8 policies.

In Pescara, a “green schooner” sailed by the Italian environmental NGO Legambiente displayed a banner reading “Stop the Fever” to stimulate world leaders to take meaningful action to fight global warming.

"The schooner appeals to the powerful of the Earth so that all decisions are taken without forgetting or underestimating the devastating effects that climate change may have on our planet," Legambiente said.

In Naples, police today arrested two anti-G8 demonstrators at a symbolic occupation of the Il Duomo cathedral.

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