G8 couldn’t push emitters to set targets

Despite fading clout, group gets China, India, Brazil to join global warming fight, if their growth isn't victim


TOYAKO, Hokkaido — The three-day Group of Eight summit in Toyako, Hokkaido, concluded Wednesday as the major industrialized powers and key emerging economies agreed to jointly fight global warming but failed to set any quantitative goals to substantiate their pledge.

“We, the leaders of the world’s major economies, both developed and developing, commit to combat climate change in accordance with our common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities,” said a joint statement by the G8 states and eight other major greenhouse gas-emitting countries.

But five of the eight non-G8 participants — namely China, India, Brazil, South Africa and Mexico — turned down the G8’s call to share a target to halve global emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050, a goal that was barely agreed on by the industrial countries the previous day.

Of the eight countries invited to the outreach session of the annual G8 summit, only Indonesia, South Korea and Australia expressed support for the long-term goal, according to a senior Japanese official who monitored the closed-door session of the top world leaders.

The five emerging powers reiterated they will not sacrifice their future economic growth for the sake of emissions cuts without the developed countries first making bold cuts themselves.

“There has not been any dramatic change in the positions of each participant,” the official said.

Still, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, the chair of this year’s G8, praised the joint statement as a step to promote United Nations-led negotiations to establish a post-Kyoto Protocol agreement to curb global emissions. “This is a big achievement. . . . We have made a contribution to accelerate negotiations (to reduce emissions) at the United Nations,” Fukuda said.

The joint statement released after Wednesday’s talks between the G8 and emerging economies said, “We support a shared vision for long-term cooperative action, including a long-term global goal for emission reductions, that assures growth, prosperity and other aspects of sustainable development.

“Taking account of the science, we recognize that deep cuts in global emissions will be necessary to achieve the ultimate objective (of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change),” it added.

Gist of G8 chairman’s summary

Kyodo News

The G8 leaders:

• Will seek to share the goal of at least halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 with all parties.

• Recognize that sectoral approaches can be useful in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

• Urge North Korea to fully cooperate in verification of its nuclear program declaration.

• Urge North Korea to take actions for an early resolution to the abduction issue.

• Press Iran to comply with U.N. resolutions and suspend its uranium enrichment activities.

• Remain positive about future growth of the G8 economies.

• Agree to improve supply-demand balance by dialogue between oil-producing and consuming nations.

• Renew their resolve to take all steps to tackle rising food prices.

• Reaffirm their commitments to increasing ODA to Africa and improving public health there.

• Call on Myanmar to immediately release political detainees, including Aung San Suu Kyi, and lift restrictions on international aid.

Observers say this year’s G8 summit has revealed the limits of the influence of the G8, given the growing clout of emerging economies and new global challenges such as soaring food and oil prices.

At a news conference wrapping up the summit, Fukuda was asked if the various written agreements pledging cooperation among the G8 nations can stop global inflation, a focus of crucial interest to people in developing nations.

Fukuda avoided a direct answer, only mentioning some of the measures agreed on by the G8 leaders at the summit.

Specifically, he cited the agreements to improve the transparency of oil futures trading by strengthening government monitoring, to extend emergency food aid and to provide long-term assistance to improve agricultural productivity in developing countries.

Fukuda also argued that all 16 countries that took part in Wednesday’s discussion on climate change recognized the seriousness and urgency of global warming.

However, environmental groups were quick to lash out at the omission of any numerical targets in the declaration to cut greenhouse gases.

Indeed, forming any consensus on specific reduction targets between developed and developing countries is considered an extremely difficult task, since capping a nation’s carbon dioxide emissions could directly affect its economic growth.

Thus talks over setting an emissions-reduction target are considered a diplomatic battle between developed and developing nations over the global distribution of future economic growth.

Tactically, there may not be many incentives for emerging economies to rush to clinch a deal with developed countries at this point, as negotiations over emissions are ongoing toward a meeting of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change to be held in Copenhagen at the end of 2009.

“Developing countries must consider Copenhagen as the main battlefield of the negotiations,” said a senior negotiator at the Foreign Ministry ahead of the G8 summit.

In addition, talks will be greatly affected by the environmental policies of the next president of the United States, who will replace George W. Bush in January.

The G8 countries — Japan, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, the U.S. and Russia — together with the eight guest states account for 80 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

“In order to address climate change, all major economies must be at the table. And that’s what took place today,” Bush said Wednesday at Toyako. “The G8 expressed our desire to have a significant reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050. We made it clear and the other nations agreed that they must also participate in an ambitious goal,” he added.

Separately, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the summit marked “a positive steppingstone” toward further global cooperation to deal with climate change.

“There has been no huge breakthrough” for a new international framework to fight global warming after the 1997 Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012, he acknowledged. But Rudd said the G8 agreement to seek to share the vision of halving global emissions by 2050 is a “step forward.”