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World Leaders Accept Global Warming Cap


A group photo of the G5 and G8 leaders at the G8 Summit in L'Aquila

A group photo of the G5 and G8 leaders at the G8 Summit in L'Aquila

PRAGUE -- G8 leaders meeting in L'Aquila, Italy today welcomed the heads of nine of the world's fastest-growing emerging economies for more talks on climate change, but the expanded group of nations was unable to reach agreement on how much to reduce greenhouse gases over the next 40 years.

On Wednesday, members of the G8 endorsed a goal of halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, which experts agree will prevent global average temperatures from rising more than an additional 2 degrees Celsius.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called the agreement between Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, and the United States "historic."

And he expressed hope that more countries would sign on to the agreement during today's meeting of the so-called Major Economies Forum, or MEF, which is comprised of 16 industrialized and developing countries: the G8, G5, South Korea, Australia, and Indonesia, plus the EU.

In the end, they didn't. But the group did agree to cap rising global temperatures.

In a joint declaration, the group said, "We recognize the scientific view that the increase in global average temperature above pre-industrial levels ought not to exceed 2 [degrees Celsius]."

U.S. Example

U.S. President Barack Obama chaired today’s meeting of the MEF, whose combined 17 members account for three-fourths of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. He encouraged the non-G8 countries to avoid thinking that economic development must come at the environment's expense.

"We've made a good start, but I'm the first one to acknowledge that progress on this issue will not be easy," he said. "And I think that one of the things that we're going to have to do is fight the temptation toward cynicism, to feel that the problem is so immense that somehow we cannot make significant strides. It is no small task for 17 leaders to bridge their differences on climate change."

Obama pointed to his own country, whose leadership in the past has been reluctant to join global efforts to reduce emissions for the environment's sake.

Now, he said, the United States is an example to the rest of the world of how economic growth and responsible environmental stewardship can co-exist.

"We've made historic investments in the billions of dollars in developing clean-energy technologies. We're on track to create thousands of new jobs across America on solar initiatives and wind projects and biofuel projects, trying to show that there is no contradiction between environmentally sustainable growth and robust economic growth," he said.

But examples are one thing, and financial aid is another, said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. He suggested that richer nations should give poor countries financing to help them reduce pollution.

"They have a historical and political responsibility to lead this campaign and they should be able to provide sufficient financial support, technological support so that developing countries can adapt themselves, can mitigate the greenhouse gas emissions," said Ban.

"They do not have the capacity, they do not have any resources available. This is what they are expecting. I am going to urge on this issue."

China Pushes On Dollar

In addition to climate change, the global economy was on today's agenda.

That discussion involved the so-called G14, which is the G8, plus India, China, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, and Egypt.

As expected, China used the forum to make its argument that the world needs to eventually shift away from the dollar as its dominant reserve currency.

The debate is sensitive in financial markets, and previous comments about it by China have prompted the dollar to weaken.

That's something China is only too well aware of. If it pushes its desire for change too far, the dollar could slump, eroding the value of Beijing's vast dollar-denominated investments.

The summit ends on Friday.
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