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Campaigners give G8 climate change pledge the cold shoulder

AFP/POOL/Guido Bergmann

German Chancellor Angela Merkel(back-C) presides over the first working session of the G8 summit leaders meeting in Heiligendamm, Germany. AFP/POOL/Guido Bergmann)

By Guy Jackson
HEILIGENDAMM, Germany 06 08 07

Climate change campaigners Thursday slammed a Group of Eight leaders' agreement on greenhouse gas emissions as "weak" because it failed to include serious reduction targets.

The world's most industrialised nations pledged at a summit here to seek "substantial global emissions reductions" and "seriously consider" a target of cutting climate-changing gases by at least half by 2050.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was "very satisfied" with the accord, while British Prime Minister Tony Blair declared it "a major, major step forward".

The White House welcomed the communique, with national security advisor Stephen Hadley saying "it reflects ideas from our president -- ideas from Japan, from Canada, from Europe, from others."

Environmental groups were unimpressed, saying the G8 leaders were simply putting a brave face on an accord that had been largely neutered by the United States when it blocked mandatory limits on emissions.

Many groups pointed the finger at Bush, the leader of the world's biggest emitter.
"Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Blair are trying to portray this as a strong agreement. But President Bush didn't give them an inch," said Philip Clapp, president of the US National Environmental Trust.

"The best they could get from him was a statement that their 50 percent-by-2050 emissions reduction proposal would be 'seriously considered'. That's a pretty tiny landmark."

Greenpeace -- which earlier sent two boats of activists into the maritime exclusion zone near the summit hotel in a global warming protest -- also slammed the accord.

"The deal is clearly not enough to prevent dangerous climate change," said the group's climate policy advisor Daniel Mittler.

Greenpeace believes that G8 states need to slash emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050 to avoid catastrophic global warming.

The summit in the Baltic Sea resort of Heilingendamm agreed to launch comprehensive talks on climate change under United Nations auspices, beginning with a conference in Bali in December this year, and to end the negotiations by 2009.

The Bali conference aims to negotiate a treaty to replace the United Nations-backed Kyoto protocol on capping carbon emissions, which expires in 2012.

The World Wildlife Fund said that, although some progress towards cutting global emissions had been made, "heads of state failed to give concrete figures and timelines" for cuts.

"In Bali we will see what the agreement is worth," said Hans Verolme, director of the WWF's Climate Change Programme.

He said that support by the EU, Japan and Canada to halve carbon pollution by 2050 "means we are a step closer to taking real action for the world's climate."

" But real emission cuts still have to be negotiated," added Verolme.

The top UN official for climate change gave the accord a warm welcome, saying it had energised the process for tackling global warming and claimed it had averted any threat that the US may launch a rival approach to tackling the problem.

Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the United Nations' Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said it was "everything I had hoped for."

" It very clearly calls for a launch of negotiations in Bali in December of this year, it calls for conclusion of negotiations in 2009 in order to have a post-2012 climate-change regime in place under the auspices of the UN," said de Boer.

AFP 072128 GMT 06 07

Copyright© 2007 AFP. All Rights Reserved.




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