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G8 Nations Fail to Meet Climate Change Promises, Report Says

A new study published Thursday says none of the leading industrialized nations have come close to meeting their promises to slash greenhouse gas emissions, with the US, Canada and Russia trailing especially far behind.

coal-fired plant in Germany

The report says Germany has failed to take a clear stance against coal-powered plants

Compiled by environmental group WWF and international financial services provider Allianz and released four days prior to the G8 summit in Japan, the study called "G8 Climate Scorecards" found that all the leading industrialized countries had failed to make improvements large enough to prevent temperature increases that scientists think would cause catastrophic climate changes.

"None of the eight leading industrial nations have taken sufficient measures needed to be considered in line with the target to limit a worldwide increase in temperatures to 2 degrees centigrade," Niklas Hoehne, author of the study said.

At last year's G8 summit in Germany, leaders from the US, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy, Canada and Russia reached agreement on considering a goal to halve global emissions by 2050.

G8 leaders at Heiligendamm in Germany

Last year, G8 leaders made grand promises to cut emissions

But the world's top eight industrialized economies -- which are responsible for an estimated 62 percent of carbon dioxide emissions -- have failed to translate words into action, the study found.

"The G-8 countries have a responsibility to be high achievers in the race against climate change. They need to be role models trailblazing the way to steer the world towards a low carbon, clean energy economy," Allianz management board member Joachim Faber said.

US given worst report card

The scorecard examined the policies implemented by federal governments of G8 countries to reduce emissions and assessed emission trends since 1990 and progress against the country's Kyoto target. It rated the countries' individual performances on three specific policy areas -- energy efficiency, renewable energy and the development of carbon trading markets.

The study singled out the US, Canada and Russia for having made the least progress, saying they had "failed the test." Among the three, the report was most scathing about the US which took last place in the ranking.

President Bush with image of earth

President Bush has resisted binding international agreements to cut emissions

"The United States scores the worst of all G8 countries, being the highest emitter with the highest per capita emissions and an increasing trend in total emissions," it said.

Canada came in second from the bottom with the report saying it too showed a steadily increasing trend in total greenhouse gas emissions.

While Russia showed declining emissions in the early 1990s, the country's record has worsened since 1999 with emissions on the rise and no notable policies to curb them, the scorecard said.

"Time is running out"

At the top of the rankings table, Britain leads the race slightly ahead of France and Germany.

While Britain is projected to reach its Kyoto target and has introduced innovative policies like the Climate Change Bill, the report said it had done too little to increase use of renewable sources of energy and pointed out that the share of polluting coal was rising in the country's energy mix.

France, ranked second, was praised for its policies and international positions on climate change but it remained weak on achieving its goals in the near future, the study said.

Third place Germany performs best on renewable energy and has recently approved legislation on energy efficiency and climate policies. But so far it has failed to take a clear stance against coal-powered plants, according to the report.

Environmental activist

Environmental activists will be targetting the G8 summit in Japan

Japan, ranked fifth, is increasing its emissions and is far from meeting its Kyoto target. While the country makes extensive use of offset projects in developing countries under the UN-administered carbon market, it has no national mandatory measures such as emissions trading.

“Time is running out,” Regine Günther, head of climate change policy at the WWF in Germany said. "We have 10 to 15 years left in which the global emissions have to peak and decline. The world is at a crossroads where decisive action now could translate into economic success.”

Setting further goals

The report also analyzed energy policies of the five emerging economies Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa but the countries aren't part of the ranking because their records can't be measured the same way as those of industrialized nations.

The report urges G8 leaders meeting in Japan next week to commit to a binding long-term target for emission reductions of 80 percent by 2050, and as close as possible to 40 percent by 2020.

G8 environment ministers have already said they hope to reach agreement on a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2012.

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