G-8 Conference Tackles Global Warming Treaty

At his last G-8 summit as U.S. president, George Bush says G-8 leaders made 'significant progress' on the goals addressed, including global warming and poverty in Africa.
By Michael Abramowitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 9, 2008; 9:30 AM

RUSUTSU, Japan, July 9-- The leaders of the countries most responsible for greenhouse gas emissions pledged Wednesday to combat global warming, but developing countries such as China and India continued to balk at the approach favored by the United States.

The 16 countries, along with the heads of the European Commission, the United Nations and the World Bank, met in an unusual meeting brokered by President Bush during the last day of the Group of Eight summit on the Japanese island of Hokkaido. It was aimed at trying to come together behind a new treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, the 1999 pact aimed at curbing carbon emissions.

On Tuesday, Bush agreed for the first time to join other major industrialized countries in setting a goal to reduce emissions. He and other leaders of the G-8 countries forged a joint communique that declares the countries will "consider and adopt" reductions of at least 50 percent as part of a new U.N. treaty to be negotiated in Copenhagen at the end of 2009. The step was the most recent sign of a gradual shift in Bush's approach to combating global warming.

The G-8 leaders also said they expect such developing countries as China and India, which are also major greenhouse-gas polluters, to promise "meaningful" actions to reduce emissions. That has been a key objective for Bush but presents an obstacle: Those countries have said repeatedly that the industrialized world, having caused most of the problem historically, must bear the greatest burden, while they need more relaxed rules to pursue economic development.

There is little sign that the key differences have been resolved. The statement released Wednesday by the participants in the meeting included no reference to specific targets. The "big five" developing countries -- China, India, Brazil, South Africa and Mexico -- met themselves this week and called for much steeper reductions than the G-8. While they said they would undertake their own efforts to address global warming, they said that developed countries must "take the lead" on the issue.

"There are definitely two different views here," said Marthinus van Schalkwyk, South Africa's environmental minister.

Still, the meeting between developing and developed countries Wednesday was described as cordial and constructive by U.S. officials, and Bush told reporters here that the parties made "significant progress."

"In order to address climate change, all major economies must be at the table," Bush said. "And that's what took place today. The G-8 expressed our desire to have . . . a significant reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050. We made it clear and the other nations agreed that they must also participate in an ambitious goal, with interim goals and interim plans to enable the world to successfully address climate change."

Bush spoke just before leaving for Washington after four days of G-8 meetings, which included bilateral sessions with key leaders gathered here. On Wednesday, Bush had one-on-one meetings with the leaders of China, India, South Korea and Brazil. He told Chinese President Hu Jintao that he looked forward to attending the Olympics in Beijing next month, while speaking with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of his continuing desire to achieve a deal to sell India nuclear technology.

Bush also hailed the progress at the G-8 not only on climate change, but also in forging plans for a successful Doha trade round, confronting disease in Africa and addressing the high cost of food and oil. "We accomplished a lot," he said. "By protecting our environment and resisting protectionism and fighting disease and promoting development and improving the daily life for millions around the world, we serve both our interests as Americans, and we serve the interest of the world."

The language of the communique Wednesday outlined different responsibilities of the developed and developing world towards combating global warming.

"[Developed] major economies will implement, consistent with international obligations, economy-wide mid-term goals and take corresponding actions in order to achieve absolute emission reductions," the document said. "At the same time," it said, developing countries like China agreed to "deviate from business as usual" in trying to slow or reduce emissions.

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