(For more G8 summit stories, click on [G7/G8])
(Adds food statement, Japanese official comments)
* G8 says world must act on climate change through UN
* G8 sees downside economic risks, serious financial strains
* Record oil prices, high food prices need to be tackled
* Africa aid commitments confirmed
By Tabassum Zakaria and David Clarke
TOYAKO, Japan, July 8 G8 nations, papering over
deep differences, said on Tuesday they would work toward a target
of at least halving global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 but
emphasised they would not be able to do it alone.
In a communique released during a summit in northern Japan,
the Group of Eight leaders also agreed that they would need to
set interim goals on the way to a "shared vision" for 2050
although they gave no numerical targets.
Mention of mid-term goals was an advance from last year when
the G8 agreed at Heiligendamnn, Germany, only to "seriously
consider" a goal of halving emissions by mid-century.
But calling on countries involved in U.N. negotiations on
climate change to also "consider and adopt" the 2050 goal
satisfies the United States, which has said it cannot agree to
binding targets unless big polluters such as China and India rein
in their emissions too.
Dan Price, assistant to U.S. President George W. Bush for
international economic affairs, said the statement reflected that
"the G8 alone cannot effectively address climate change, cannot
effectively achieve this goal, but that contributions from all
major economies are required".
Critics outside the rich nations' club slammed the deal,
although many had already predicted that chances for bold steps
were slim until a new U.S. president takes office next January.
"The G8 are responsible for 62 percent of the carbon dioxide
accumulated in the Earth's atmosphere, which makes them the main
culprit of climate change and the biggest part of the problem,"
environmental group WWF said in a statement.
"WWF finds it pathetic that they still duck their historic
DEVELOPING NATIONS WANT MORE
Five big emerging economies including China, India and South
Africa also panned the G8 and called on rich nations to slash
their greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95 percent below 1990 levels
by 2050, and make cuts of 25-40 percent by 2020.
South African Environment Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk
said he feared this year's communique was a step backward.
"While the statement may appear as a movement forward, we are
concerned that it may, in effect, be a regression from what is
required to make a meaningful contribution to meeting the
challenges of climate change," van Schalkwyk said.
The Group of Five, which also includes Brazil and Mexico, met
in the northern city of Sapporo before joining talks with the G8
The European Union and Japan had been pressing for this
year's summit to go beyond just "considering" the 2050 goal, and
Brussels had wanted clear interim targets as well.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown praised the agreement.
"There has been major progress on the climate change agenda
beyond what people thought possible a few months ago," he told
reporters. "For the first time the G8 has said we will adopt at
least a 50 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 as part
of a worldwide agreement that we hope to get in Copenhagen."
Summit host Japan also said the deal represented "significant
progress" from last year and would boost momentum for the
U.N.-led talks, although not all Tokyo's hopes had been met.
"Are we disappointed? Not really, because we have been able
to achieve consensus among the G8," said Koji Tsuruoka, director
general for global issues at Japan's foreign ministry.
The U.N.-led talks aim to create a new framework for when the
Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012 and are set to conclude in
Copenhagen in December 2009.
The G8 comprises Japan, Britain, Canada, Germany, France,
Italy, Russia and the United States.
FOOD AND FUEL
Global warming ties into other big themes such as soaring
food and fuel prices discussed at the three-day summit at a plush
mountain-top hotel on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido,
where 21,000 police have been mobilised.
In another statement, the leaders expressed strong concern
about sky-high food and oil prices, which they said posed risks
for a global economy under serious financial strain.
The G8 said the steep rise in global food prices also
threatened food security and called for countries with sufficient
food stocks to make available a part of their surplus for
countries in need.
The leaders agreed to bring major oil producers and consumers
together in a new forum to discuss energy security. One diplomat
said it would also be a venue to talk about output and prices.
The price of food and of oil, which hit a record high of
$145.85 a barrel last week, is taking a particularly heavy toll
on the world's poor.
A World Bank study issued last week said up to 105 million
more people could drop below the poverty line due to the leap in
food prices, including 30 million in Africa.
The G8 leaders reaffirmed aid targets pledged at their
Gleneagles summit in 2005, when they vowed to raise annual levels
of aid by $50 billion by 2010, $25 billion of that for Africa.
Aid workers and NGOs had expressed concern about the pledge,
saying donor countries might fail to meet their promises, which
are not legally binding and are hard to track in actual spending.
The summit has become a magnet for protesters and although
Japan has been effective at cracking down on any demonstrations
-- helped by the remote location of the summit -- a few thousand
have managed to hold protests several km (miles) away.
A group of demonstrators marched to the sound of music and
drums on Tuesday, holding signs saying "Smash the G8 summit" and
"Free G8 political prisoners".
Tomoyuki Sueoka, a 25-year-old graduate student, said: "G8
nations do not have the right to decide the policies of the
world. This is not democratic. They talk about poverty and food
shortages but they are simply talking about business."
(Additional reporting by Linda Sieg, Yoko Nishikawa, David
Fogarty, Alan Wheatley, Chikafumi Hodo, William Schomberg, Vivek
Prakash, Chisa Fujioka, Yoko Kubota, Alan Wheatley, Lucy Hornby,
Gernot Heller, David Ljunggren; Writing by Linda Sieg; Editing by
Sonya Hepinstall and Rodney Joyce)