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Merkel Hails 'Clear Commitment' On Climate Change

The G8 talks in Heiligendamm today (epa) HEILIGENDAMM, Germany, June 7, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel has hailed today's agreement by G8 leaders to work for greenhouse-emissions cuts, though the deal sets no specific benchmarks and thus falls short of her ambitious hopes.

After a day of talks that focused on economics, foreign policy, and climate change, Merkel announced the G8 leaders had agreed on "clear language" recognizing that rises in carbon-dioxide emissions must first be stopped and followed by substantial reductions.

Merkel called the accord "a clear commitment to continue the UN climate process."

However, the G8 leaders do not appear to have committed to any specific targets. Nor is their agreement binding.

"Nothing's going to happen in terms of substantial reductions [in greenhouse gases] unless China and India participate," Bush said.

'Everyone Is On Board'

Merkel said instead that the G8 nations agreed to "consider" the EU aim for a 50-percent cut in greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050 -- a plan opposed by the United States.

She said that represented a victory.

"Everyone is on board with the European resolutions [regarding climate change], and that is really an unbelievable achievement," Merkel said. "And it shows that if you are not ambitious at first... you will not achieve anything in the end."

British Prime Minister Tony Blair echoed Merkel's enthusiasm.

"The possibility is here, therefore, for the first time of getting a global deal on climate change with substantial cuts in emissions, and everyone in the deal, which is the only way that we are going to get the radical action on the climate that we need," he told reporters today. "I think this is a major, major step forward."

The United States, which has not ratified the original Kyoto Protocol, remains opposed to setting binding emissions targets.

But the tone from U.S. President George W. Bush was conciliatory.

Washington now says it recognizes that action on global warming is needed and it has offered some counterproposals.

As Alexander Bradshaw, scientific director of the German-based Max-Planck-Institut fur Plasmaphysik, told RFE/RL correspondent Irina Lagunina in Heiligendamm that is significant and should be welcomed.

"We have to remember that President Bush has gone a long way down a road which none of us expected him to take two or three years ago," Bradshaw said. "He is beginning to accept that there is a climate problem, that CO2 emissions must be reduced, and the collectively the nations of the world, in particular the industrial nations, but also the emerging industrial nations, must take action."

China And India

The Bush administration says it wants to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions through the use of new technology.

And it wants joint action on the question by the world's top polluters, including developing nations China and India -- which were not included in the Kyoto Protocol reductions.

Bush reinforced that point earlier today, as he spoke to journalists after the start of the summit.

"Nothing's going to happen in terms of substantial reductions [in greenhouse gases] unless China and India participate," Bush said. "And so, it is our role to serve as a bridge between people who've got one point of view about how to solve greenhouse gases and about how to get the developing nations, such as China, at the table."

Already, China, India, and the United States alone account for more than half of the world's greenhouse-gas emissions.

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