July 1, 2009 / 4:55 PM / 10 years ago

U.S. seen backing climate target at G8

LONDON (Reuters) - The United States will agree to a goal to limit global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius at next week’s Group of Eight summit, a senior European official involved in preparing the meeting said on Wednesday.

Climate activists Lesley Butler and Rob Bell (R) sunbathe on the edge of a frozen fjord in the Norwegian Arctic town of Longyearbyen April 25, 2007. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

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.

But Washington has not embraced a 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) limit seen by the European Union and some vulnerable developing countries as the threshold beyond which climate change will reach danger levels.

“The United States are on board and I expect the 2 degrees will be in the G8 text,” the official told Reuters.

“The importance of the 2 degrees target is reinforced in an unambiguous way in the latest draft G8 communique. There is a stronger reference and we have come a long way since May,” he said, citing the latest draft text circulated last Friday.

The source, who asked not to be named, was comparing that with a previous draft text dated May 11, in which the U.S. delegation wrote that “any negotiation of numbers or figures should be undertaken in the context of the (U.N.) negotiations” on a new climate treaty.

“The 2 degrees may even be included in the MEF (17-member Major Economies Forum ) text. But at the moment, it is bracketed,” the official said ahead of the July 8-10 meeting in Italy.

The MEF group includes major developing countries which don’t want to back long-term climate goals before rich nations agree tough near-term action to limit their emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases.

MEF members, which account for 80 percent of global emissions, will hold a summit on the sidelines of the G8 summit.

MAJOR ECONOMIES

Next week’s climate summit is meant to help drive global agreement on a new U.N.-led climate pact in Copenhagen in December, to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

“The G8 will not try to crack the Copenhagen climate talks next week but will try to get momentum toward agreement,” the official said.

Climate change threatens higher seas and more floods and droughts, and more warming threatens more dangerous effects. For example, the Amazon rainforest may die at 4 degrees or more warming, scientists say.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told reporters on Wednesday that he was “starting to see movement” from Washington on a warming limit. Japan, Russia and Canada have opposed a 2 degrees target favored by European G8 nations Germany, Britain, France and Italy.

The latest MEF draft showed that major economies including the United States and China were considering setting a goal of halving world greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The MEF draft also said developed countries support “an aspirational global goal” of reducing global emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050.

Last year, industrialized nations in the G8 agreed at a summit in Japan to a “vision” of halving world greenhouse gases by 2050, but developing countries including China, India and Brazil did not adopt that 2050 goal.

-- For Reuters latest environment blogs click on: blogs.reuters.com/environment/

Additional reporting by Tim Heritage in Stockholm

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