G8 leaders in crunch climate-change talks

G8 leaders will enter crunch talks today with emerging economies including China and India over plans to halt global warming.

The G8 reached an agreement last night – hailed as “historic” by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown – at the summit in L’Aquila, Italy, to seek to limit average global temperature increases to 2C by cutting their greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050.

The deal marked a major breakthrough on the road towards the United Nations climate change summit in Copenhagen in December, made possible by the radical US shift in stance towards global warming since Barack Obama replaced George Bush as president.

The G8 group of major industrialised powers now face a tough challenge to secure agreement from emerging economies to accept caps on their own fast-increasing carbon use if the world is to reach the overall 50% cut in emissions believed necessary by the middle of the century to hit the 2C target.

China and India believe that the lion’s share of any self-restraint must be shown by the Western nations which have contributed most to global warming by their use of fossil fuels since the industrial revolution.

Earlier this week, Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh said the West bore a “historical responsibility” for climate change, though negotiators at L’Aquila suggested that Delhi may be coming round to the need for agreement.

China and India form part of the “plus five” group of emerging economies - also including Mexico, Brazil and South Africa – which will join the G8 nations today for talks on climate change.

These will be followed by a summit of the Major Economies Forum on the climate, chaired by Mr Obama and comprising these 13 states plus other major CO2 emitters like Australia, Indonesia and South Korea.

Kim Carstensen, leader of the WWF Global Climate Initiative, said: “World leaders have come back down to earth. We welcome them back but why have they failed to tell us how they want to achieve what they promise?

“What are they going to do between now and 2020? If they don’t outline a path to reach the announced goal, the two-degree statement will just join a long list of broken promises.

“The G8 commitment to reduce their emissions by 80% or more by 2050 is welcome news, but it does not compensate for the lack of clear and ambitious short-term targets.”

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