TOYAKO, Hokkaido — The Group of Eight powers agreed Tuesday to “seek to share” with both developing and developed states the goal of at least halving global emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050, showing only scant progress from last year’s summit in fighting global warming.
The G8 nations also agreed to set a midterm emissions-reduction goal for themselves, although no numbers were mentioned in their joint statement on climate change.
Tuesday’s agreement, reached during a working lunch on the second day of the G8 leaders’ annual summit, may help Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda save face as the G8 host after struggling to forge a meaningful consensus on climate change issues.
The G8 accord still appeared shaky, however, because it was unclear if the major developing countries would agree to “share” the long-term emissions-cut goal.
“Needless to say, it’s impossible to realize (a long-term goal) without the contributions of major gas emitting countries,” Fukuda told reporters Tuesday in announcing the G8 accord. “This (agreement) is to lay the foundation for the next step. . . . We need to call on developing countries and emerging economies” to share the goal in the next step, he said.
The United States has staunchly argued that any agreement without the participation of such emerging powers as China and India will be meaningless and has refused to set any ambitious mid- or long-term goal for itself without commitments from developing nations as well.
The G8 leaders did not discuss whether the industrialized nations alone would strive to achieve the goal if any of the major developing countries disagreed on sharing it, according to a senior Japanese diplomat who monitored the closed-door meeting.
Still, the EU welcomed Tuesday’s accord, and tried to use it as a springboard for pressuring the developing economies to agree on setting other emissions reduction goals.
“I am very happy about the result of the G8 on climate change. The European Union’s benchmark for success at this summit has been achieved,” European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said in a statement. “This is a strong signal to citizens around the world.”
At last year’s summit in Germany, the G8 countries agreed to “consider seriously” the target of halving global emissions by 2050. Whether they would be able to make any progress beyond that was a major focus of the Toyako talks.
On Wednesday, the last day of the three-day summit, the G8 leaders are scheduled to hold an “outreach” session on climate change issues with their counterparts from China, India, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, South Korea and Australia.
Emerging powers, including China, India and Brazil, have insisted they will not agree to any mid- or long-term goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions unless developed nations offer bold cuts first.
Statement on the environment
The Group of Eight leaders agreed Tuesday to:
• Reaffirm their commitment to combating climate change and note that enhanced commitments or actions by all major economies are essential to tackle global warming.
• Maintain their determination to achieve stabilization of atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases through the common efforts of major economies to slow, stop and reverse the growth of emissions and move toward a low-carbon society.
• Seek to share the vision of achieving at least a 50 percent reduction in global emissions by 2050.
• Recognize that sectoral approaches can be useful in improving energy efficiency and achieving national emission reduction objectives.
• Recognize the important role of renewable energy in tackling climate change and underscore the importance of sustainable biofuel production and use.
• Recognize that more countries are expressing interest in nuclear power programs.
The G8 statement also recognized the “sectoral approaches” proposed by Japan as “useful tools” for achieving national emission reduction goals.
Japan has proposed a bottom-up approach for estimating the potential emission cuts in each industrial sector, saying it would help to set a fair goal for each country.
Experts and nongovernmental organizations gave mixed reactions to the G8 accord.
Fukashi Utsunomiya, a professor emeritus at Tokai University, said the agreement “secured a footing” for a possible global agreement at next year’s U.N. conference on climate change in Denmark.
“I presumed through President (George W.) Bush’s comments that the United States was reluctant to move forward” on climate issue negotiations, the environment expert said.
It would have been better if the statement pledged a 50 percent emission cut instead of “seeking to share the vision,” he said, although praising Fukuda for “adjusting the opinions of the leaders and mapping out the statement.”
Utsunomiya said China and India will resist having domestic emission cut targets imposed but will probably agree to share the G8 statement of halving global carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 during Wednesday’s outreach meeting.
NGOs on the other hand were quick to disapprove the G8 statement on climate change, calling it “another stalling tactic” instead of progress.
Oxfam International released a statement pointing out that global emissions must peak by 2015, noting Tuesday’s statement failed to set numerical goals by individual countries, including midterm targets for 2020.
The group said pledging action by 2050 is way too insufficient, adding that by midcentury, all the G8 leaders who made such vows “will be long forgotten.”