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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

G8 SUMMIT 2008

Kobe meet fails to set 2020 goals

Achieving progress too tall an order

Staff writer

KOBE — Environment ministers from the Group of Eight industrialized nations ended a three-day meeting in Kobe on Monday united on the need for a long-term goal of at least halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

But the meeting ended in bitter disappointment for those hoping for a clear commitment to medium-term reductions, as the ministers failed to support specific emission reduction targets for 2020, as recommended last year by an international body of global warming experts.

"Last year, the G8 leaders agreed to seriously consider reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least half by 2050. Strong political will was expressed to go beyond this agreement and reach agreement on a shared vision of long-term global goals at the G8 Hokkaido summit," said the chairman's summary.

It added that developed countries should take the lead in achieving a significant reduction.

But setting medium-term goals has left developed and developing countries — as well as the G8 members themselves — bitterly divided, and virtually no progress was made toward this goal.

A new climate agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012, is to be hammered out in Copenhagen by December 2009.

Environment ministers from Britain and Canada expressed a sense of urgency in Kobe about moving forward toward a medium-term reduction target agreement by then.

In February 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommended reduction commitments from developed countries of between 25 percent and 40 percent by 2020.

A United Nations conference in Bali last December called on developing countries to take "measurable, reportable and verifiable" climate change mitigation actions in a post-Kyoto treaty. But at the Kobe meeting, the ministers agreed only to consider the IPCC report's recommendations.

"The need was expressed for effective midterm targets which take into account the findings of the IPCC," the chairman's summary said.

Going into the environment ministers summit, Japan had faced criticism from the international community for not working harder to get all of the G8 to agree on the need for medium-term reduction targets. It was also criticised for not taking the lead by announcing its own national targets in line with the IPCC recommendations.

Germany, for example, has national legislation in place to reduce emissions by nearly 40 percent by 2020, while the European Union has called for a 20 percent reduction by 2020.

"We need long-term and midterm reduction targets, as well as national action plans to achieve those targets," said German Environment Minister Matthias Machnig at a news conference Monday morning.

Environment Minister Ichiro Kamoshita said that despite the IPCC recommendations and the looming deadline in December 2009 for a new climate change treaty, more study is needed.

"For midterm reduction targets, the important issue is how to take the IPCC knowledge into consideration to come up with a viable target. At this point in time, I'm not sure it's appropriate to cite specific figures at the negotiation table," Kamoshita said.

In addition to climate change, the ministers agreed that governments should come up with national action plans and implementation strategies to protect biodiversity.

With additional reporting by Shihoko Nagayama

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