- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 8, 2009


L’AQUILA, Italy —The world’s top eight economic powers, including the U.S., pledged Wednesday to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but have failed to win the same agreement from the broader group of top polluting nations.

In a declaration issued by the group of eight, or G-8, those nations’ leaders committed to reducing developed countries’ greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050, and called for the world’s total emissions to be reduced by half by 2050. But the same language was left out of an expected statement tomorrow by the 17 members of the Major Economies Forum.

Still to come Wednesday night was an expected statement on how to handle Iran’s nuclear program, which G-8 leaders were scheduled to discuss at dinner.

The G-8 also agreed to release a first-ever report on how well the member nations are living up to their international aid commitments —apparently a step toward demanding accountability from Italy and France, in particular. Both nations have been criticized by aid groups for shirking their pledges.

Still, the report does not force recalcitrant nations to take specific steps, but rather leaves remediation up to those countries.

“Getting the data out there is the first step,” said Michael Froman, deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs, who is Mr. Obama’s chief advisor to these meetings.

On global warming, Mr. Froman said taken together, the declarations add “political momentum” to getting something done.

“By the time these meetings are over you’ll see there’s been a significant step forward in dealing with climate change issues,”

The nations are rushing to try to get commitments in the run-up to a major global warming summit scheduled for Copenhagen in December. But developing nations are balking at making firm commitments without the major nations taking more steps themselves.

Both declarations are expected to include a goal of capping warming to 2 degrees celsius, and the nations are expected to lay out possible ways to adapt to changing climate, but the declarations likely won’t include specific financial commitments for how to help developing nations.

“This limit commits the G8 to follow the science which is good. But 2050 is too far off to matter — poor people are being hit today,” said Antonio Hill, a spokesman for Oxfam, and international aid charity. “We must see emissions cuts of at least 40 percent by 2020 and G8 money to help the poorest countries cope with climate chaos.”

Obama administration officials cautioned against getting wrapped up in the specific global warming targets, saying the commitments are a good step and arguing there’s room to do more by December.

The G-8 nations are the U.S., Russia, Japan, Italy, France, the United Kingdom, Canada and Germany. The Major Economies Forum includes those nations and Brazil, China, the European Union, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Mexico and South Africa.

Mr. Obama will spend three days at meetings in L’Aquila before meeting with Pope Benedict XVI in Rome Friday afternoon, then flying to Ghana for a Saturday speech about the role of developing nations.

On Wednesday afternoon he toured L’Aquila with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The city was hit by an earthquake in April, leaving dozens dead, tens of thousands evacuated and damage to much of the historic city.

In a press conference Wednesday evening Mr. Berlusconi said Italy has fallen behind on its aid commitments because of the earthquake, but said they will make that up by the end of this year.

Still, he said there’s “a need to rethink our approach” to development aid to make sure it doesn’t end up benefiting the rich in those countries.

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