Europeans seek quick G8 pledge to reduce greenhouse emissions | Environment| All topics from climate change to conservation | DW | 07.07.2009
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Europeans seek quick G8 pledge to reduce greenhouse emissions

As Italy gears up to host the G8 summit, European countries are pushing for a commitment from developing countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But not all G8 members are on the same page.

Emissions coming out of cooling towers at a coal-fired power plant at dusk

Countries disagree on how and how much to reduce emissions

The Group of Eight - made up of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States - is set to take on several large challenges, including the global financial crisis and climate change, when it meets in the earthquake-stricken Italian mountain town of L'Aquila.

This week, Italy, France and Britain called for major developing economies like India and China to commit to halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

"The slogan is minus 50 in 2050: if we agree this with China, India, (South) Korea and the African and Latin American countries, it will be an extremely ambitious goal," Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told the Il Messaggero newspaper.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini

Italian Foreign Minister Frattini wants more than just the EU on board

While only the G8 are agenda-setting participants at the summit, representatives from 39 nations -- including emerging economies like China and India -- will also participate in discussions.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown echoed the call for developing countries to agree to the target of cutting global emissions by 50 percent of 1990 levels by 2050.

However, France and Britain also said industrial countries should take it a step further and aim for an 80-percent reduction in their greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

In a joint statement, the two countries said the summit would "test our determination to grasp the scale of the changes needed to address the challenge of global warming."

Limiting warming by 2 degrees C

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said leaders at the summit would formulate a commitment to limiting global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees F) since pre-industrial times.

Italy, which now holds the G8 presidency, takes Merkel's stance and also wants summit leaders to agree that global emissions should peak by 2020. Both targets are based on research presented by United Nations' climate change experts, and have been endorsed by the European Union, but not the United States and Japan.

Human-sized letters spell CO2

Leaders will debate the size of cuts to CO2 emissions

EU members want the year 1990 to be used as a base for calculating emission cuts, but the US and Japan disagree since their emissions have risen by close to 20 percent since 1990. Their cuts would thus be steeper.

EU emissions have dropped since 1990.

Pressure is on for an agreement ahead of the United Nations' climate change summit in Copenhagen in December, which is slated to develop a replacement for the 1997 Kyoto pact on climate change.

India and China, which are part of the 17-member Major Economics Forum (MEF) meeting to be chaired by US President Barack Obama on Thursday during the G8 summit, have so far refused to accept an aim of reducing emissions by 50 percent by 2050. The nations have said wealthy countries must first set a nearer-term goal for reducing their own emissions.

The G8 had set the 2050 goal of reducing emissions by 50 percent at their last meeting, in Japan in 2008.


Editor: Sean Sinico

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