1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites
US President Barack Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel
A climate agreement was reached on WednesdayImage: AP

Climate target

July 8, 2009

The world's leading industrialized nations pledged to limit global warming to within two degrees of pre-industrial levels, but dates pegged to concrete emissions goals are a long way off.


Leaders of the Group of Eight industrialized nations made a bid to prevent catastrophic climate change on Wednesday, calling for global warming to be kept to two degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels.

They also agreed to new carbon emissions cut targets, pledging to cut emissions from within their borders by 80 percent by 2050. G-8 leaders also expressed hope that they would be able to convince rapidly developing nations to limit their own emissions, pitching in on an effort to cut worldwide emissions by 50 percent over that time.

"We have agreed for the first time [in the G-8] that average global temperatures must rise by no more than two degrees…We hope that we will get that agreement tomorrow too," British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said during a break in talks at the summit of G-8 leaders in the Italian town of L'Aquila.

On Thursday, the leaders of the Major Economies Forum (MEF - the G-8 plus Brazil, China, India, Mexico, South Africa, Australia, Indonesia and South Korea) are to meet in L'Aquila to discuss climate change.

The absence of Chinese Premier Hu Jintao, who returned home to deal with ethnic unrest in the country's west, however, is likely to be a setback, and ahead of the meeting, developing countries resisted suggestions that they should endorse the 2050 goal.

Asked whether a deal with China, India and other major developing economies would be reached on Thursday, Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said: "That is another question."

The earth from space
A worldwide emissions cut could be difficult to achieveImage: AP

Reinfeldt was present at the meeting as the current holder of the European Union's rotating presidency.

Light on details

What specific measures might be taken to reach the carbon emissions goals, how the cuts will be financed, as well as when emissions would have to begin declining was not addressed in the statement.

"We recognize the broad scientific view that the increase in global average temperature above pre-industrial levels ought not to exceed two degrees," the meeting's final draft stated.

That is in line with scientific warnings that if the world's average temperature rises by more than two degrees, it will cause catastrophic changes to world weather patterns, triggering widespread storms, flooding, droughts and famines.

Last year, G-8 leaders called for world emissions to fall by 50 per cent by 2050, but failed to endorse the two-degree goal.

"One year ago it was not possible (to agree to the two-degree limit), our American partners did not accept that, now they accept it. So there is progress," European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told reporters.

Other topics on the agenda for the remainder of the summit include the nuclear ambitions of North Korea, the politically volatile situation in Iran, and food security.


Editor: Chuck Penfold

Skip next section Explore more
Skip next section DW's Top Story

DW's Top Story

three soldiers operating an M777 howitzer

Why is the US sending 'downgraded' weaponry to Ukraine?

Skip next section More stories from DW
Go to homepage