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G8 risks fail on climate change targets

July 8, 2009

By Guy Dinmore in L’Aquila, George Parker in Rome and Fiona Harvey in London July 8, 2009

World leaders meeting at the G8 summit in Italy risk failing to agree on climate change emissions targets,
activists said early on Wednesday as heads of government started to arrive. Preparatory talks late on Tuesday held by senior diplomats of the 16-nation Major Economies Forum dropped a reference in the draft communiqué to the goal of halving greenhouse gas omissions by 2050.

MEF leaders will meet on Thursday during the three-day summit at L’Aquila in central Italy. But Hu Jintao,
China’s president, had to cut short his visit and return to deal with unrest in Xinjiang.

“There is a real danger that the G8 text will go backwards as a result of this,” commented Anantha
Guruswamy, Greenpeace programme director. He said India and China had so far refused to sign up to the commitment on emissions targets because the G8 club of rich nations had not shown leadership by putting enough incentives and financing on the table. “It is up to Obama to show leadership on this,” Mr Guruswamy said.

Barack Obama, US president, arrived in Rome on Wednesday morning. After meeting Giorgio Napolitano, Italy’s head of state, he will fly the 120 km to L’Aquila for the summit which is being held in the compound of a finance ministry police college.

The 16 countries in the MEF  produce 80 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions. A key issue at the MEF, which will be co-chaired by Mr Obama and Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, will be whether to include a formal commitment to hold global warming to no more than 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels, which scientists regard as the limit of safety.

If agreed by the MEF, it would be the first time such a commitment has been formally adopted by an international forum.

British officials travelling with Gordon Brown were hopeful of an accord, but the commitment was in doubt as China sought to achieve additional concessions on funding for poor nations to cut emissions and adapt to climate change, and for more of the burden of emissions cuts by 2020 to be taken up by rich countries.

The debate at L’Aquila is intended to give momentum to UN talks under way to update the Kyoto protocol, which culminate at Copenhagen in December. The original Kyoto deal required rich countries but not poor nations to cut emissions, and was never ratified by the US. G8 talks on Wednesday will begin with the global financial crisis.

A draft communiqué obtained by Reuters notes signs of stabilisation in major economies.
On “exit strategies” – how to deal with the massive debt overhang and threat of inflation once recovery starts
– G8 leaders are expected to follow the cautious approach set out by their finance ministers a month ago.
The draft communiqué says:  “We agreed the need to prepare appropriate strategies for unwinding extraordinary
measures once the recovery is assured. Exit strategies will vary depending on economic conditions and public finances. Analytical work will be carried out by the IMF.”
“Stable and sustainable long-term growth will require a smooth unwinding of the existing imbalances in current accounts,” says the draft.

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