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U.S. resists EU climate target for G8 summit

OSLO (Reuters) - The United States has been resisting European calls for industrialized nations to target an upper limit for global warming of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), according to a draft summit text.

Two degrees is seen by the European Union and many developing countries as the threshold beyond which climate change will reach danger levels, with rising seas and more heatwaves, floods and droughts.

The Italian draft for a Group of Eight summit in Italy next month, dated May 11 and obtained by Reuters, reaffirms a goal of agreeing a U.N. climate pact in December and says a “substantial share” of stimulus packages should go to a greener economy.

But it shows disagreement over targets in a section that would widen to the G8 a European Union target of limiting “the average increase in temperature to 2 Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.”

The disputed section says: “We reiterate the goal of achieving at least a 50 percent reduction of global emissions by 2050, recognizing that this implies that global emissions need to peak by 2020.” The 2020 peak would also be new for the G8.

The U.S. delegation wrote in a comment on the section that “any negotiation of numbers or figures should be undertaken in the context of the (U.N.) negotiations” on a new climate treaty.

U.N. talks in Bonn from June 1-12 failed to make progress on such goals. The U.S. comments also said the section should be reviewed after a meeting of major economies including China and India, taking place in Mexico on June 22-23.

“The major emerging economies will play a significant role in reaching any global goal and should, at a minimum, be included in such a discussion,” the U.S. notes said. Developing countries have resisted setting a peak year for their emissions.

It was unclear if the G8 draft had changed since May 11.

U.S. President Barack Obama has promised to take far tougher action to slow global warming than his predecessor George W. Bush, aiming to cut U.S. emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020 and by 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

DANGEROUS

Obama has not embraced the 2 Celsius goal. Temperatures have already risen about 0.7 Celsius since the start of the Industrial Revolution. Washington says deep cuts in emissions are its main yardstick for success. The U.S.-edited draft dropped a reference to “dangerous” change.

“It is extremely worrying that President Obama’s officials appear to be weakening the G8’s climate conclusions,” said Damon Moglen, head of the U.S. climate campaign for environmental group Greenpeace.

“This is a long way from his pledge that the U.S. is ready to lead in the global effort to tackle climate change,” he said.

Japan, Russia and Canada have also opposed a 2 Celsius goal, favored by European G8 nations Germany, Britain, France and Italy. At a 2008 summit in Japan, the G8 agreed a “vision” of a global halving of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

In some sections of the May draft’s 15-page text on climate and energy, the United States urges tougher measures to include, for instance, curbing emissions of soot and gases in refrigerants that also contribute to global warming.

The text shows agreement on use of carbon markets and other mechanisms such as emissions taxes, fees, incentives, and reductions in fossil fuel subsidies.

The text says that the fight against global warming will require “mobilization of significant financial resources, both public and private.” It does not estimate how much.

The draft also makes no mention of calls by developing nations for the rich to cut emissions by between 25 and 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, in line with the toughest scenarios outlined by the U.N. Climate Panel.

Editing by Mark Trevelyan

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