Nations seek common ground on climate
Amsterdam — Developing countries with big polluting industries are joining the world’s wealthiest nations at the G-8 summit this week, trying to unblock troubled climate negotiations just five months before a deadline on limiting global carbon emissions.
The presidents and prime ministers gathering in Italy are expected to consider committing to a firm goal of halving the world’s greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century, although disagreement persists on how that should be measured.
They also are discussing how to channel new technologies to rapidly developing economies and how to generate the billions needed to help those nations satisfy their rising needs for power with clean energy.
The 17-nation Major Economies Forum summit in L’Aquila is one of the most important meetings in a year of frenzied diplomacy leading up to a major U.N. conference in Copenhagen in December, where 192 countries are to finalize a successor to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on global warming.
President Barack Obama revived the major economies format last April, convening the most influential players that could sway the U.N. negotiations. Senior officials have met four times to prepare for this summit, focusing mainly on financial issues.
In addition to the Group of Eight rich countries, the forum includes China, which has overtaken the U.S. as the world’s biggest polluter, and India, which is close behind. Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia, Australia, Korea and the European Union also are in the club.
At their last summit in Japan a year ago, the G-8 committed to reducing carbon emissions 50 percent by 2050. But the vague statement did not specify which year it would take as a base line. U.N. scientists have used 1990 as the starting point, but the United States and Japan are using 2005 levels.
Yvo de Boer, the top U.N. climate official, said he wished the major economies would firm up their 2050 commitment at the forum meeting.
“If the (forum) can paint the big picture in terms of a long-term goal, that is important,” he told The Associated Press.
Equally important, he said, would be setting midterm goals for 2020 and settling the question of how to fund financing to help poor countries adapt to climate change.
The Kyoto accord required 37 industrial countries to cut emissions by 5 percent by 2012 but made no demands upon developing countries.
The U.N. talks on a Copenhagen agreement are stuck on competing demands from developed and developing nations. Developing nations are insisting that industrial countries commit to cutting emissions by 25 to 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020, while wealthy nations insist that all countries must somehow limit the growth of their greenhouse gases.
Developing countries say they will shift to low-carbon growth only if they receive advanced technology and money with which to do it.
The United States, which rejected the Kyoto treaty, now wants to be part of the new agreement but says it would be unrealistic to commit to a 25 percent target from 1990 levels in the next decade.
So far this year, the industrial countries have made pledges for carbon reductions by 2020 that together fall far below 25 percent.
De Boer said those pledges amounted to “a first statement of intent” that were still open for negotiation.
In a statement, The WWF environmental group said wealthy countries must raise $160 billion a year from 2013 to 2017 to fight climate change and should immediately begin paying $2 billion a year to the world’s poorest countries to help them recover from climate-related disasters.
“Significant public funding has to come on the table in Copenhagen,” De Boer said. “Everyone says this is an absolute political priority.”
U.N. scientists warn that an increase in average global temperatures by more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit could lead to potentially disastrous climate effects. Those could include the melting of polar ice caps, which would raise sea levels and threaten coastal populations, the extinction of up to 30 percent of species, the disruption of agriculture and the spread of diseases that thrive in warmer temperatures.
“A clear commitment to a (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) danger threshold on paper is an absolute must for G-8 countries,” said Kim Carstensen, the leader of WWF’s Global Climate Initiative. “The countries gathering in L’Aquila have the biggest responsibility to show leadership on climate. Without their action, we cannot expect the rest of the world to move.”