… but doesn’t agree on when to turn down the heat. This is Oxfam’s resumé on the freshly released G8 climate change communiqué. Leaders could not improve on last year’s commitment of “a 50% reduction of global emissions by 2050”. They did however agree that to reach such a global reduction, developed countries will have to reduce their emissions by 80% by 2050. There was no agreement on a specific year as a baseline, and the final wording – “compared to 1990 or more recent years” – reflects the disagreement between the EU who pushed for a 1990 baseline and the USA and Japan who want future emissions to be compared to a more recent reference year.

As hoped and expected, it was agreed, however, that “the increase in global average temperature above pre-industrial levels ought not to exceed 2°C.” This is the first time that the US has officially agreed to such a target, something that would have been unimaginable under George W. Bush. The Canadians were opposed to this statement earlier this week, but after long negotiations and NGO campaigns from the likes of Avaaz, Canada accepted the language.

Like last year, no interim goal has been agreed on, though the EU’s push for a 2020 goal is reflected in the statement that a 50% reduction by 2050 “implies that global emissions need to peak as soon as possible and decline thereafter”. This lack of an interim target does not sit well with a 2°C target as Kim Carstensen, leader of the WWF Global Climate Initiative, puts it: “What are [world leaders] going to do between now and 2020? If they don’t outline a path to reach the announced goal, the 2 degree statement will just join a long list of broken promises.”

In the short term, they will be working on their economic recovery. The deterioration of the economic climate is noticeable throughout the document. Yet, positively, the trend to “green” individual stimulus packages (at least rhetorically) has been picked up in the communiqué: “We must seize the opportunity to build on synergies between actions to combat climate change and economic recovery initiatives, and encourage growth and sustainable development worldwide.”

For those interested in adaptation and forestry, the document seems to have something on offer.  The document mentions the “possible security implications of the adverse impact of climate change and the potential for increased conflicts over scarcer resources.” It goes on to discuss not only deforestation but also land degradation and the importance of biodiversity.

The bottom line is that apart from the lack of interim targets, most NGOs and other observers agree that the communique is adequate. Or as John Kirton, of the G8 Research Group, put it – “It met my standards.”

The G8 leaders will now take this communique to the Major Economies Forum tomorrow.  There Obama will chair a difficult meeting in which he will attempt to reverse China and India’s longstanding opposition to adopting quantitative emissions targets.

By Ruth Brandt, Niel Bowerman and Marie Karaisl

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