No commitment from G-8 to meet emissions target | 6:10 PM
July 9, 2008 No commitment from G-8 to meet emissions target Mere endorsement of 2050 target sets stage for clash with emerging economies By Kwan Weng Kin, Japan Correspondent
DIGGING IN: G-8 leaders planting trees yesterday to commemorate the summit. They are (from left) US President George W. Bush, Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and European Union president Jose Manuel Barroso. -- PHOTO: AP
TOKYO - THE world's richest nations are set to lock horns with five big emerging economies today over their respective responsibilities for global warming. The stage was set yesterday after the Group of Eight (G-8) major industrialised nations endorsed, but did not commit themselves to, a target to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
This was later criticised by the leaders of Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa, who said that the G-8 should have set themselves binding targets to reduce the release of gases that cause global warming.
In a lengthy statement yesterday on the second day of their annual summit at a hot spring resort in Hokkaido, the G-8 - comprising Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States - noted that the 2050 target could only be met by a global response 'by the contributions of all major economies'.
The latter was an evident reference to China, which is said to have surpassed the US as the top emitter of carbon dioxide, India, and other major emitters.
However, the leaders of the five emerging economies, also known as the Group of Five (G-5), yesterday staked out tough positions during their own summit in Sapporo.
They urged the G-8 to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050, and also to observe medium-term targets of 25-40 per cent cuts by 2020.
South African Environment Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said this year's G-8 communique was a step backwards.
'While the statement may appear as a movement forward, we are concerned that it may, in effect, be a regression from what is required to make a meaningful contribution to meeting the challenges of climate change,' said Mr van Schalkwyk.
The statements by G-8 and G-5 set a confrontational tone for their negotiations today, when they will seek to look for ways to complement United Nations-led talks on fighting climate change.
Before the three-day G-8 summit wraps up today, the leaders of Australia, Indonesia and South Korea will join the 13 nations for a US-initiated meeting on energy security and climate change.
The failure of G-8 to commit themselves to halving global emissions by 2050 represents a setback for Japanese Premier Yasuo Fukuda, the chairman of the summit.
Had the group adopted the 50 per cent goal outright, it would probably help to shore up his lacklustre support among Japanese voters.
However, US President George W. Bush, taking part in his last G-8 Summit, stuck to his long-held position that other major emitter nations must also be committed to any binding target.
Trying to put a positive spin on yesterday's talks, Mr Fukuda said the G-8 had agreed to call for the 2050 vision to become 'a goal for the whole world', and indicated that he would ask China and India to commit to the target.
'The cooperation of all major emitters is crucial,' he told reporters.
But critics slammed the G-8 statement as mere lip service.
Environmental campaign group WWF said in a statement: 'The G-8 are responsible for 62 per cent of the carbon dioxide accumulated in the Earth's atmosphere. WWF finds it pathetic that they still duck their historic responsibility.'
The G-8 leaders yesterday also discussed the global economy and trade, fuel prices and aid for poor countries, but announced few concrete measures.
G-8 Quickly BANQUET AFTER FOOD CRISIS TALKS TOYAKO: The world's most powerful leaders put aside debate on tackling the global food shortage to enjoy a rich banquet of world delicacies.
US President George W. Bush and other Group of Eight leaders slipped off their shoes and sat on Japanese tatami mats for an eight-course gala dinner on Monday to mark the start of the G-8 summit.
The leaders and their wives quaffed French champagne and Japanese sake as they savoured delicacies ranging from caviar and hairy crab to cold Kyoto beef and milk-fed lamb.
Food security is at the top of the list of issues at the summit amid soaring global foodstuff prices.
Four key areas of concern
CLEAN RIDE: Vehicles, like Toyota's electric-powered i-Real being ridden by EU President Jose Barroso's wife Maria, may help cut greenhouse gas emissions. -- PHOTO: AFP
Climate change THE G-8 leaders agreed to work towards a target of at least halving global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, but they said they would not be able to do it alone. Big polluters like China and India need to come onboard.
Food, fuel prices
They expressed strong concerns about sky-high food and oil prices, saying that they pose risks to a global economy under serious financial strain.
However, they stopped short of announcing concrete steps.
They were positive about the long-term resilience of G-8 economies and future global economic growth, despite uncertainties.
There was a thinly-veiled call for China to let the tightly-controlled yuan appreciate to help reduce global financial imbalances.
Aid to Africa
The G-8 agreed to spend US$60billion (S$81billion) on fighting disease in Africa over five years and reaffirmed commitments to double aid to the continent.
A timeframe of five years has been set to make good on promises made at last year's summit in Germany to fight malaria, Aids and tuberculosis.