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G8 Leaders Agree to Halve Emissions by 2050

In what was being hailed as a historic move, Group of Eight leaders meeting in Japan agreed Tuesday to halve global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. However, environmentalists said the agreement didn't go far enough.

Emissions from a coal-fired power plant

G8 leaders have agreed to cut emissions pumped into the atmosphere in half by 2050

The groundbreaking deal, brokered by G8 hosts Japan and propelled by the European Union, overcame the resistance of US President George W. Bush, who had refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change and who continues to block plans for medium-term cuts.

The binding measures should be brought into the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which will culminate in a meeting in Copenhagen at the end of 2009.

In a statement, G8 leaders said they would "consider and adopt" the goal of achieving "at least a 50 percent reduction of global emissions by 2050."

G8 leaders

G8 leaders are on the Japanese island of Hokkaido

The leaders further said that such a challenge would require "a global response" and the contributions from "all major economies, consistent with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities."

G8 leaders said they wanted to work with the nearly 200 nations involved in UN climate change talks to meet the 2050 goal.

The G8 communique said mid-term goals would be needed to achieve that goal, but did not give any numerical targets. Brussels, however, has called for clear interim targets.

The agreement was hailed by Jose Manuel Barroso, the head of the European Union's executive body, the European Commission.

"This is a strong signal to citizens around the world," he said. "We have agreed a long-term goal of at least 50 percent reduction of emissions by 2050, and we have agreed that we should also set up mid-term targets.

"Now we need to go the extra mile to secure an ambitious global deal in Copenhagen," he said.

Environmentalists critical

Environmental groups were less pleased. One pressure group said the G8 leaders had done little more than restate last year's G8 commitment.

Picture of the US east coast from space

Environmentalists say the G8 isn't taking a strong enough stance on the environment

"The G8 are crawling forward on emissions cuts at a time when giant leaps and bounds are needed," said Peter Grant of Tearfund, a Christian relief and development agency.

At their meeting in the German resort of Heiligendamm last year, G8 leaders had agreed only to "consider seriously" the 2050 target.

This time round, they said they "shared" the UNFCCC's vision and that they would "consider and adopt" the targets.

But critics were adamant that the G8 leaders had in fact failed by not specifying targets for 2020, merely postponing the problem to future generations.

"In the year 2050, (Canadian Prime Minister Stephen) Harper will be 91, Bush will be 104 and (Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo) Fukuda will be 114. So we don't necessarily believe their commitments," said Ben Wikler of AVAAZ.org, an environmentalist group.

Fuel and food

Soaring oil and food prices were also high on the agenda on the second day of this summit in a luxury mountain-top hotel on the Japanese island of Hokkaido.

Gas pump and euro bills

Oil prices are painful for Europe, but hitting poor countries especially hard

High prices for oil and food pose a "serious challenge to stable worldwide economic growth," G8 leaders from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States warned on Tuesday.

In the face of skyrocketing prices, the G8 said it wanted to bring major oil producers and consumers together for a summit to discuss output and pricing. Oil prices have about doubled over the past year and last week hit a record high of $145.85 a barrel. G8 leaders called for increased production and refinement to help slow the price rise.

To cushion the blow, which is taking an especially heavy toll on poor countries, officials have said the G8 would unveil a series of measures to help Africa, particularly its farmers, and would affirm its commitment to give $50 billion in extra aid money in 2010, half of which would go to the world's poorest continent.

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