Heiligendamm, Germany (AFP) Jun 07, 2007
Environmental groups dismissed a climate change accord hammered out by the Group of Eight wealthy nations as an empty gesture but observers hailed the pact Friday for tying the United States to the goal of fighting global warming. The G8 agreed at a summit in this German seaside resort to pursue major cuts to dangerous greenhouse gas pollution and said they would "seriously consider" the goal of halving global emissions by 2050.
The deal brokered by German Chancellor Angela Merkel was a compromise which she admitted fell short of her target of a binding agreement to slash carbon pollution, in the face of US opposition to any mandatory targets.
Merkel said she was "very satisfied" and British Prime Minister Tony Blair called the deal "a major, major step forward." But global warming campaigners said it came up far too short.
"These goals are a joke," said anti-globalisation group Attac, which organised days of noisy protests against the summit. "The deal is clearly not enough to prevent dangerous climate change" said Daniel Mittler, climate policy advisor of Greenpeace International.
"The US isolation in refusing to accept binding emission cuts has become blindingly obvious at this meeting."
Greenpeace said G8 states need to slash emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050 to avoid catastrophic global warming.
"Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Blair are trying to portray this as a strong agreement. But President Bush didn't give them an inch," said Philip Clapp, president of the US National Environmental Trust.
"The best they could get from him was a statement that their 50 percent-by-2050 emissions reduction proposal would be 'seriously considered'. That's a pretty tiny landmark."
Yet many observers said the declaration signed by Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia as well as the United States opened a new chapter of international cooperation with Washington.
The UN's top official on climate change said the declaration was "everything I had hoped for" and suggested Washington had made significant concessions.
"Very recently, (the United States) indicated that it was too early, it was premature to begin negotiations on a post-2012 climate change regime, so that's a very clear shift," said Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the United Nations' Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Merkel said she thought US President George W. Bush's turnabout came "in light of massive scientific findings and many debates in Europe and the United States."
European media were overwhelmingly positive in their take on the pact.
"When the politicians pronounced a 'successful deal' on climate change at the G8 summit yesterday, they were naturally putting a positive gloss on an agreement which is still a long way from an iron-clad commitment to reduce greenhouse gases," The Times of London said. "Yet to brand it rather scornfully as a 'compromise', as others have done, is to underplay the significant progress that has been made ... What matters is that America has clearly come in from the cold."
German newspapers credited Merkel's close ties with Bush as making the difference, in positive editorials across the political spectrum.
"Considering the point where they started, the compromise of the G8 summit is more than has been achieved in years of trying to achieve effective climate protection," Berlin's centre-left daily Tagesspiegel wrote.
"This success is thanks to Angela Merkel and her tenacity and the pressure of the American public."
The communique gave a spur to talks for a successor to the Kyoto Protocol -- the emissions-cutting pact which runs out in 2012 -- and spells out that any deal should be global and come under the auspices of the UN.
The Handelsblatt business daily said the pact marked the first time that the G8 had set a "magic number" for climate change but warned that the G8 states now needed to follow through.
"The goal 'minus 50 percent by 2050' is in the text even if there are several important restrictions," it said. "Remember -- the US government helped negotiate Kyoto. But the USA never ratified the pact."
earlier related report
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who holds the G8 presidency, said she was "very, very satisfied" with the agreement but acknowledged it was a compromise that fell short of her hopes for a binding deal.
"The very best we could achieve has been achieved," Merkel said, adding that the accord paved the way for talks beginning in Bali in December to find a successor to the UN-backed Kyoto Protocol on capping carbon emissions that expires in 2012.
US President George W. Bush said from the start of the summit Wednesday that he would not accept any mandatory targets on curbing pollution that did not bring developing nations such as China and India on board.
Merkel said the declaration showed there was now no doubt among the world's biggest polluters about the link between carbon emissions and global warming and that they had committed to take action.
"What is of the greatest importance is that all of this will take place in the framework of a UN process," she said.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair hailed the pledge as a "major, major step forward" while new French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the accord marked "unexpected" progress in the fight against global warming.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon welcomed the "commitment to a multilateral process within the UN framework" and the UN's top climate official, Yvo de Boer, said US willingness to now join the post-Kyoto process marked "a very clear shift."
But environmental groups dismissed the pledge as hollow and blamed Bush for blocking mandatory limits on emissions.
"The deal is clearly not enough to prevent dangerous climate change," said Daniel Mittler, climate policy advisor of Greenpeace, adding that G8 states needed to cut their emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050 to avoid catastrophic global warming.
The final declaration laid out the goal of "strong and early action" to stop global greenhouse gas emissions from rising.
This would be "followed by substantial global emissions reductions."
"We will consider seriously the decisions made by the European Union, Canada and Japan which include at least a halving of global emissions by 2050," it said.
"We commit to achieving these goals and invite the major emerging economies to join us in this endeavour."
Merkel said the deal would allow national environmental ministers to begin negotiating immediately with the goal of wrapping up the UN talks on a post-Kyoto pact by the end of 2009.
"Now the way is clear for everyone to say we need such binding accords and these pledges cannot just be made by industrialised nations," she said.
Blair, attending his last G8 summit before he steps down this month, said that developing nations such as China and India, which were exempt from emission targets under Kyoto, were now called upon to join the process.
"The possibility is here therefore, for the first time, of getting a global deal on climate change with substantial cuts on emissions, with everyone in the deal, which is the only way that we're going to get the radical action on the climate that we need," he said.
Sarkozy, who backed Merkel's goal for a binding agreement, said the deal was better than predicted by most in the run-up to the summit.
"It is quite unexpected when you consider where we started," the French president said. "It is the first time we have had a quantified target (on carbon emissions) in a G8 text."
Merkel had piled the pressure on the United States, as the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, to join a process to keep the planet from overheating.
Bush surprised many last week by offering a proposal in which the United States and up to 14 other big emitters would agree by the end of next year "a long-term global goal" for reducing greenhouse gases.
He sharply rejected accusations that Washington was doing nothing to tackle climate change, telling reporters that US greenhouse gas emissions had declined in the last year despite the fact that the economy had grown.
"We are taking steps necessary to be good stewards of the environment and at the same time advance technologies," he said.
The meeting of the G8 -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States -- at the Baltic Sea resort of Heiligendamm ends Friday.
Source: Agence France-Presse
Email This ArticleMajor Developing Nations Lukewarm On G8 Climate Goals
Berlin (AFP) Jun 07, 2007
The leaders of five major developing nations on on Thursday signalled they would not bow to pressure from the Group of Eight to commit to binding targets in the fight against global warming. Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa insisted ahead of talks with G8 leaders on Friday that their "different capacities and interests" must be considered when tackling climate change.
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