U.N.'s Ban to push medium-term CO2 targets at G8

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday he would push at a Group of Eight summit next month for short- and medium-term goals for cutting greenhouse gases and also urge a big rise in agricultural aid.

Ban told journalists that before setting out on an Asian tour that will include this year’s July 7-9 G8 summit in Toyako, Japan, he would write to each of the group’s leaders “laying out my concerns and requesting their leadership.”

The G8 nations are Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States. At last year’s summit in Germany, the leaders agreed they would seriously consider a target of halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

“I will ask for short- and medium-term targets for reducing greenhouse gases,” Ban said. “It is not enough to talk of change by 2050. If we want real change, we must begin now -- with targets for real progress by 2020.”

Pressure is mounting from environmentalists for the G8 to come up with medium-term targets. But wide gaps exist within the group and between richer and poorer nations over how to share the burden of fighting climate change, blamed for droughts, rising seas and more severe storms.

Last week, Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said the G8 would not set a target for cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 2020 or 2030.

“As for medium-term targets, this is the core challenge for U.N. negotiations until the end of 2009,” Fukuda told news agencies in an interview. “The G8 is not a forum to agree on that target.”

Last December, 190 countries agreed on a two-year U.N.-led negotiating process to forge a successor to the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol on cutting carbon emissions. Those talks will culminate in Copenhagen in December 2009.

Ban also said he would press at Toyako for a big boost in agricultural aid to combat a food crisis that has seen spiraling prices in the past year.

“I will ... propose that we triple the proportion of official development assistance for agricultural production and rural development,” he said. “To overcome this crisis, we need nothing less than a second ‘green revolution’.”

U.N. officials say agriculture currently accounts for some 3 percent of donor countries’ official development assistance.

Ban said he would also ask the G8 to increase funding for programs on infant and maternal health, community health projects and measures to control HIV and AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and neglected tropical diseases.

Ban’s Asia tour will take him to China and his native South Korea as well as Japan.

Editing by Todd Eastham