Positive Environment News

G8 Climate Statement Needs 2020 Vision - UN

Date: 09-Jul-08
Country: JAPAN
Author: David Fogarty

G8 nations meeting in northern Japan said on Tuesday they would work with the developing countries toward a target of at least halving global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

In a communique released during the annual summit, the Group of Eight leaders also agreed that they would need to set interim goals on the way to a "shared vision" for 2050.

But they gave no numerical targets.

"Looking at the thing as a whole I have mixed feelings on it," Yvo de Boer, head of the UN Climate Change Secretariat, told Reuters in an interview.

"On the one hand it contains a number of positive elements. It's positive in that it talks about ambitious economy-wide mid-term goals for industrialised countries.

"It's positive in that it recognises there is a difference between rich and poor nations and what they should be expected to do," he said.

"What I find lacking is any kind of language on where industrialised nations, G8 nations, want their emissions to be in 2020 and I think that is critical to making progress in the negotiations," he said.

That, he said, was the kind of leadership developing countries wanted from rich nations and the kind of investment clarity the private sector was looking for.

"So that's the critical element that's not mentioned at all," he said.

Poorer nations say they won't agree to binding emissions curbs unless rich nations take the lead, including commiting to a 2020 reduction target.


De Boer is under growing pressure to achieve a breakthrough agreement by the end of next year for all nations to back a new pact to replace the Kyoto Protocol, the world's first binding global pact to fight climate change, whose first phase ends in 2012.

De Boer is head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, under which the Kyoto pact falls.

A meeting of nearly 200 nations that have joined the UNFCCC treaty will be held in Copenhagen at the end of next year to agree emissions curbs that will bind all countries.

At present, Kyoto commits only 37 rich nations, not including the United States, to cut emissions by an average of five percent below 1990 levels from 2008-12.

Kyoto's replacement would aim to include Washington as well as big carbon emitters China, India and other developing nations.

The G8 statement makes no mention of a base year for emissions cuts, against which nations can set their level of ambition for future emissions reductions.

"It (the G8 statement) says to consider and adopt the goal of achieving a 50 percent reduction. But the proof of that pudding will be in what is the point of departure. Against what will you be achieving a 50 percent reduction?," he said.

"The finishing line of the marathon seems to be clear but the starting line and the actual length, the actual distance to be run is less clear," he added.

Koji Tsuruoka, director-general for global issues at Japan's foreign ministry, told reporters on Tuesday: "There was no discussion on base year. That's up for interpretation. The document does not refer to a base year, which is by design and not a coincidence."
(Additional reporting by Linda Sieg)

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