TOYAKO, Japan (Reuters) - Big emerging economies will come under pressure on Wednesday to respond in kind to an initiative by rich countries to work towards a target of at least halving their global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
The Group of Eight (G8) industrial nations want the leaders of eight fast-growing countries to adopt a “shared vision” of tackling global warming in U.N. negotiations due to conclude in Copenhagen in December 2009.
“There has been major progress on the climate change agenda beyond what people thought possible a few months ago,” British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said of Tuesday’s agreement.
“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,” he said.
The U.N.-led talks aim to create a new framework for when the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.
Critics said the agreement was a timid advance on last year’s summit commitment in Heiligendamm, Germany, to seriously consider the 2050 goal of halving emissions by mid-century.
“This is a complete failure of responsibility. They haven’t moved forward at all. They’ve ducked the responsibility of adopting clear mid-term targets and even the 2050 target is not a single thing more than what we got in Heiligendamm,” said Daniel Mittler, Greenpeace International’s political adviser.
Environmental group WWF called the G8’s stance “pathetic”.
Even one of the G8 signatories sounded a note of caution.
“We are ready to cooperate on this goal on understanding that it is not legally binding,” said Alexander Pankin, a senior Russian Foreign Ministry official. “It is very difficult to imagine a government subscribing to something which happens 42 years later.”
The other G8 members are Japan, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, the United States and Britain.
The cool reaction of a group of five developing countries also suggested that hard bargaining was in store.
China, India, South Africa, Mexico and Brazil called on rich nations to slash their carbon emissions by 80-95 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, and make cuts of 25-40 percent by 2020.
This Group of Five will join the G8 on the last day of its three-day annual summit on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido in a so-called Major Economies Meeting that Australia, Indonesia and South Korea will also attend.
The G5’s stance is important. The G8 nations emit about 40 percent of mankind’s greenhouse gas emissions. But China and India together emit about 25 percent of the total, a proportion that is rising as their coal-fueled economies boom.
Washington in particular has said a global climate deal is impossible unless China and India make sacrifices. But the G5 not only failed to make an offer of its own after a coordinating meeting on Tuesday but said the ball was still in the G8’s court.
“It’s not we who are not on board. We’ve got a more ambitious package. Now we need the U.S. to get on board. It’s going to be two years of tough negotiations,” said a Group of Five diplomat who declined to be identified.
Given the positions that have been staked out, a Japanese official said the meeting was unlikely to get down to specific targets for emission cuts.
“We do not expect our final statement to touch on numerical targets that include the emerging economies,” he said.
Climate change will not be the only bone of contention at Wednesday’s talks. Emerging nations are suffering more than rich countries from soaring fuel and food prices and bristled at the suggestion that their rising demand is to blame.
“This is not a responsible attitude,” Chinese President Hu Jintao said after the G5 met in the northern city of Sapporo.
Developing countries are also likely to come under pressure to help achieve a breakthrough in long-running global trade talks when ministers gather in Geneva on July 21.
“This could be the last chance to seal a deal and we should not miss it,” said Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Union’s executive Commission.
The EU, United States and other rich countries are trying to win further concessions in areas of interest to their exporters of goods such as cars and chemicals, and their service providers.
But emerging countries complain that the rich world is not doing enough to scale back huge farm subsidies or high farm import tariffs that penalize exporters in poor countries.
“Developed countries must dismantle barriers and distortions, especially agriculture subsidies and domestic support that affect the overall efforts of developing countries,” the G5 said.
Reporting by Linda Sieg, David Clarke, William Schomberg and Lucy Hornby; Writing by Alan Wheatley; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall