Europeans seek G8 pledge to halve greenhouse gas

ROME (Reuters) - Italy, France and Britain called on Monday for major developing economies like China and India to sign up for a goal of halving the world’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 at this week’s expanded G8 summit in Italy.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said the “extremely ambitious” goal would be the focus of the second day of the summit on Thursday, when U.S. President Barack Obama will chair a meeting of the 17-member Major Economies Forum (MEF).

The MEF, which groups rich and poor countries accounting for about 80 percent of the world’s carbon emissions, hopes to make progress toward a new U.N. climate change pact, due to be signed by 190 nations gathering in Copenhagen in December.

“The slogan is minus 50 in 2050: if we agree this with China, India, (South) Korea and the African and Latin American countries, it will be an extremely ambitious goal,” Frattini said in an interview published in the Il Messaggero newspaper.

The call was echoed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, meeting for a bilateral summit in the lakeside town of Evian in the French Alps.

In a tough joint statement, the two countries said the G8 meeting planned at L’Aquila in central Italy would “test our determination to grasp the scale of the changes needed to address the challenge of global warming.”

France and Britain called on developing countries to sign up to the target of cutting global emissions by 50 percent by 2050, from 1990 levels. The base year for carbon cuts is a moot point, with some rich nations like Japan and the United States seeking a more recent base year which would make cuts less onerous.

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France and Britain, however, called on industrial countries to go even further and target an 80 percent reduction in their greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

“The time is short, the need for us to work together on that is very clear,” Brown said during a joint news conference.


The MEF has convened a last-minute ministerial talks in Rome on Tuesday to try to narrow the gap on long-term environment goals ahead of Thursday’s heads of state meeting, amid differences over the scale of cuts and the base year.

Last year, the Group of Eight industrialized nations -- the United States, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Canada, Italy and Russia -- agreed at a Japan summit to a vision of halving global greenhouse gases by 2050 to help avert ever more droughts, floods, heatwaves and rising sea levels.

But developing countries including China, India and Brazil did not sign up for that, saying rich nations should first agree to ambitious short-term targets. They want developed states to cut emissions by at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

Foreign Minister Franco Frattini he looks on during a meeting to unveil the logo of the next G8 meeting during a news conference in downtown Rome December 4, 2008. REUTERS/Max Rossi

Washington, which has promised a New Green Deal since Obama took office this year, has resisted such steep cuts but France and Britain on Monday left the door open.

“Our two countries also ask for the adoption of an ambitious, credible intermediate target for 2020, in line with what science is telling us, i.e. a 25-40 percent reduction compared to 1990,” it said.

Frattini also said the summit would produce some commitment on limiting the increase in global average temperatures above pre-industrial levels to no more than two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), in line with U.N. experts’ recommendations.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said on Monday he would press the United States and other countries to accept the two degree target -- favored by European nations -- as the threshold beyond which climate change reaches danger levels.

Washington has resisted endorsing such a goal, but a European official said last week that Obama, whose climate bill has made progress in Congress, might now be on board for it.

Additional reporting by Estelle Shirbon in Evian, France and Darren Ennis in Brussels; Writing by Stephen Brown; Editing by Jon Boyle