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July 10, 09

NEWS / G8 Nations Agree to Cut Carbon Emissions 80 Percent by 2050

By Stephen Kaufman
Staff Writer

Washington — The effects of climate change are putting every country at risk and no one nation can address it alone, President Obama says, adding that the United States and other developed countries have a responsibility to take the lead in reducing carbon pollution that is causing global temperatures to rise.

Speaking July 9 at the Group of Eight (G8) meeting in L’Aquila, Italy, Obama said climate change is one of the “defining challenges of our time,” and the scientific research pointing to its existence is conclusive and can no longer be ignored.

“Ice sheets are melting. Sea levels are rising. Our oceans are becoming more acidic. And we’ve already seen its effects on weather patterns, our food and water sources, our health and our habitats,” Obama said.

On July 8, the G8 countries — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States — reached a “historic consensus” on goals for reducing carbon pollution, the president said. By 2050, developed nations will reduce carbon emissions 80 percent below a base year that was not specified. They also agreed to work with other nations to cut overall global emissions in half.

“This ambitious effort is consistent with limiting global warming to no more than two degrees Celsius, which, as our declaration explicitly acknowledged for the first time, is what the mainstream of the scientific community has called for,” Obama said.

The president acknowledged that developed and developing nations have different priorities because of their differing levels of economic development. Developing nations do not want to “sacrifice their aspirations for development and higher living standards,” but they must be active participants in a solution because they will be the source of most of the growth in projected emissions, Obama said.

On the other hand, developed nations have “the much larger carbon footprint per capita,” he said, which carries a “historic responsibility to take the lead,” and he pledged U.S. leadership on the issue.

“I know that in the past, the United States has sometimes fallen short of meeting our responsibilities. So let me be clear: Those days are over,” Obama said.

Discussions on climate change expanded July 9 to include Australia, Brazil, China, Denmark, the European Union, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa and South Korea, who are participating in the Major Economies Forum (MEF) along with the G8 nations.

For the first time, developing nations at the MEF “acknowledged the significance of the two degrees Celsius metric and agreed to take action to meaningfully lower their emissions relative to business as usual” over the next 10 years, Obama said. They also agreed to negotiate concrete goals to reduce their carbon emissions by 2050 before an international summit on climate change scheduled to be held in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December 2009.

The MEF agreed to establish a “peak year” for global carbon emissions, after which overall levels would start to fall, and the president said the reductions would be “measurable, reportable and verifiable.” Developing nations will also have access to more financial resources to help them deploy clean-energy technologies and create low-carbon growth plans.

There will also be a global partnership established with the goal of doubling research and development of transformational clean-energy technology and bringing it to the global marketplace.

Despite the difficulty of getting MEF leaders to agree on climate change within the context of a global economic recession, Obama said the forum has “made a good start.”

The president outlined steps the United States has taken in 2009, such as investing billions of dollars in developing clean technologies, raising auto fuel efficiency standards, and drafting pending legislation that would cut U.S. carbon pollution by more than 80 percent by 2050.

“I’ve come to see that it is going to be absolutely critical that all of us go beyond what’s expected if we’re going to achieve our goals,” he said.

Urging global cooperation, Obama said the world is facing the choice of either shaping its own future or letting “events shape it for us.”

“We know that the problems we face are made by human beings. That means it’s within our capacity to solve them,” he said.



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