EU seeks two degrees Celsius pact at G8

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European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said on Monday (6 July) that he would press the United States and other nations to limit global warming to no more than two degrees Celsius at this week’s Group of Eight (G8) summit in Italy.

The United States, Japan, Russia and Canada have yet to be convinced that a two degrees Celsius limit – favoured by European G8 nations Germany, Britain, France and Italy – is the necessary threshold beyond which climate change will reach danger levels. 

But Barroso said he would “stress the importance of the science and remaining within a two degrees temperature rise” when he meets his G8 counterparts and leaders of developed and emerging economies at the three-day summit from Wednesday. 

“We go to L’Aquila with a number of key objectives. We will insist on the need to respect the two degrees Celsius target,” Barroso told a news conference ahead of the summit in the Italian city devastated by an earthquake in April. 

Barroso said he would also push for an agreement by the 17-member Major Economies Forum (MEF) on the sidelines of the G8 summit to “reiterate the need for a global goal of achieving at least a 50% reduction of global emissions by 2050”. 

“This in turn means that developed countries must reduce emissions by at least 80% in the same period and underpin these efforts through robust and comparable mid-term reductions,” he said. 

The road to Copenhagen

A substantive MEF agreement this week would go a long way in defining a new UN climate treaty due to be agreed in Copenhagen in December, to replace the Kyoto Protocol. 

The MEF group – which accounts for 80% of global emissions – includes major developing countries, which do not want to back long-term climate goals before rich nations agree tough near-term action to limit their output of planet-warming greenhouse gases. 

“Developed countries have a special responsibility to take the lead. But this is not going to be enough,” Barroso said. 

“The emerging economies, for example, where growth in emissions is surging, must also join in the effort. We must all do our part, in line with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.” 

Last year, industrialised 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. G8 sources said it was unclear whether MEF nations would reach an agreement this week and envoys were scheduled to hold a special pre-summit meeting on Tuesday aimed at ironing out differences. 

“There are still some very thorny issues to be resolved before Wednesday on climate and we need to see how we can get an agreement with developing countries,” one senior G8 source said. Climate change threatens higher seas and more floods and droughts. For example, the Amazon rainforest may die at warming of four degrees Celsius or above, scientists say. 

(EURACTIV with Reuters.

Background

The global community is in the midst of negotiations for a new climate treaty, which is expected to be signed in Copenhagen in December (see EURACTIV LinksDossier on 'The Road to Copenhagen'). 

The treaty is to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which sets greenhouse-gas emission limits for its signatories until 2012. In the US, the passing of a climate bill before December will be crucial to determining President Barack Obama's mandate to commit to a global climate change regime. 

At EU level, the European Commission presented proposals in January for approval by the 27 members of the EU. The proposals urged emerging economies such as China and India to take on their fair share of responsibility by agreeing to limit emissions growth by 15-30% below business-as-usual levels by 2020 (EURACTIV 29/01/09). 

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