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G8 leaders on climate change

Date
08 June 2007

The leaders of the G8 countries have made an important political step forward on dealing with the threat of climate change at their summit in Heiligindamm. After months of haggling between government negotiators and speculation over whether any sort of deal would be possible, the eight heads of state moved closer to the long-term agreement on emission reduction targets that the public, scientists and businesses have been calling for.

The main points in the G8 communique included:

. Agreement that "resolute and concerted action is urgently needed" and commitment to "further development of the international regime to combat climate change" based on acknowledgement of "the continuing leadership role that developed countries have to play".

. A recognition that the UN is the right forum for brokering agreement on this regime. Countries committed to further dialogue - starting in the US later and to kick-starting negotiations at the UNFCCC meeting in Bali in December with the aim of completing negotiations by 2009 - one of the key demands made of leaders before the summit.

. Although no specific emissions target was agreed, G8 leaders recognised that "global greenhouse gas emissions must stop rising, followed by substantial global emission reductions" and that an overall target needs to be set . In this context a goal of halving global emissions by 2050 is explicitly mentioned.

. Agreement to promote further development and deployment of low carbon technologies, to "strengthen and extend market mechanisms", and to develop new frameworks and mechanisms for reducing deforestation, especially in developing countries.

. Commitment to supporting developing countries in their adaptation efforts.

. Major emphasis on improving energy efficiency, through adoption of efficient energy systems, a possible international agreement on energy efficiency ad development of efficiency standards and labelling.

. Agreement to work further on standards for new buildings, to bring down the carbon intensity of the transport sector and accelerate the "development and deployment of carbon capture and storage" as part of a drive to a low carbon power sector.

Governments are due to meet in Bali in December to continue their negotiations under the UN's Framework Convention on Climate Change, where it is hoped they will agree on a concrete mandate to establish the international framework referred to in the Heiligindamm communique and complete negotiations by 2009. Key elements of this framework will be consensus on medium and long-term targets for absolute emission reductions, the role of international carbon markets and how the major developing countries are to be involved. Other key meetings in the run up tp Bali will be a meeting between government delegates in Vienna in August to discuss objectives and a session on climate change at the UN General Assembly in New York in September.

Steve Howard, CEO of The Climate Group, said: "Although policy is still lagging behind the urgency demanded by the scientific evidence of global warming, Heiligindamm could mark a new phase in international collaboration to address the problem.

"Recognition by Heads of State of the need to act decisively and quickly and to provide business with predictable and long-term policy frameworks is a clear indication that the debate has moved forward in a significant way.

"With the US now offering to play its part in this is a major political shift. While there is much that remains to be done congratulations are due to Prime Minister Blair for putting this on the G8 agenda in Gleneagles and to Chancellor Merkel for making it a priority in Heiligendamm.

"We now look to the formal negotiations in Bali to translate these statements in concrete action."

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