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June 13, 2007
Also appeared in print June 18, 2007, p. 15

Climate Change

G-8: Greenhouse Gas Emissions Must Stop Rising

Countries commit to modest climate goals, primacy of UN process

Bette Hileman

On June 7, the leaders of the Group of Eight leading industrial nations agreed that "global greenhouse gas emissions must stop rising" and that this leveling off in emissions "must be followed by substantial global emissions reductions."

Earlier, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and outgoing U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair had been urging the other G-8 members to commit to a mandatory 50% reduction in global emissions from the 1990 level by 2050. In the final communiqu??, the G-8 agreed to seriously consider that target.

The G-8 group—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the U.K., and the U.S.—also acknowledged that "the United Nations climate process is the appropriate forum for negotiating future global action on climate change." They committed to negotiate a new global accord by the end of 2009 to replace the Kyoto protocol, which expires in 2012. The new agreement should include all major emitters, the group said, which means that large developing countries, such as China and India, also should participate.

Before the agreement was reached, European leaders had been afraid that President George W. Bush would try to undermine the UN process by convening 14 of the world's top emitters of greenhouse gases this fall and developing a climate-change pact. On May 31, he had announced a plan to hold such a conference of major industrialized and developing nations in the U.S.

Many European leaders praised the climate-change agreement concluded at the G-8 summit. Blair called the pledge "a major, major step forward."

But environmental activists and some members of Congress called the agreement meaningless. Philip E. Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust, said, "President Bush rejected every solid proposal on the table to cut global warming pollution, and the U.S. is fundamentally isolated from the rest of the world on the issue once again." Clapp is referring to the continued reluctance of the U.S. to commit to mandatory targets and specific timetables.

Democratic lawmakers echoed Clapps's views. "It's clear that when it comes to global warming and the G-8, the U.S. has taken a singular position that leaves it outside the larger parade toward action," said Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), chair of the Select Committee on Energy Independence & Global Warming.

The next major UN negotiations on climate change will take place in Bali, Indonesia, in December.

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