Issue Date: July 14, 2008
G-8 Endorses Emissions Cuts
LEADERS OF THE WORLD'S eight richest nations, who met last week in Japan, have pledged to cut global greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050, but their declaration is short on details.
Nonetheless, the statement from the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the U.K., and the U.S. reflects a pivotal change in policy for President George W. Bush. Until this year's G-8 meeting, Bush steadfastly resisted international calls for deadlines to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
Japan pushed hard for the G-8 leaders to endorse a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The leaders' pledge, however, lacks a baseline year, such as 1990 or 2008, for those cuts. The earlier the year, the steeper would be the cutbacks required and presumably the greater the cost.
The G-8's goal to cut emissions "would not avoid dangerous climate change altogether" but "would greatly reduce the odds of catastrophic impacts," says Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. The center works with businesses and governments to address climate change.
The G-8 declaration sets the U.S. on a path toward further international cooperation on climate change but leaves it up to the next U.S. president to work out details, says Michael A. Levi of the Council on Foreign Relations, a think tank.
In addition, the G-8 leaders threw their support behind the development of technologies to capture and store carbon dioxide emitted by fossil-fuel-fired power plants, especially those that burn coal. They called for the launch of 20 large-scale capture-and-storage demonstration projects around the world by 2010.
Meanwhile, leaders of five major developing countries—Brazil, China, India, Mexico, and South Africa—met in parallel with the G-8 leaders in Japan and issued their own declaration on climate change. The so-called Group of Five said industrialized nations need to take the lead in addressing climate change and should reduce releases of greenhouse gases by 25–40% by 2020 and 80–95% by 2050, based on 1990 levels.
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