21st Jun 2021

Brussels hoping for climate commitment at G8

  • G8 leaders will also meet with emerging countries this week in a bid to reduce differences before a vital meeting in Copenhagen this December (Photo: EUobserver)

The European commission will be pushing for clear climate change commitments from leaders of the Group of Eight industrialised nations who will meet in L'Aquila, Italy, later this week (8-10 July), but the final statement may not include mid-term targets say officials.

"We are only 153 days from [the United Nations climate change meeting in] Copenhagen, time is passing, so I really want to create a sense of urgency," said European commission president Jose Manuel Barroso on Monday (6 July).

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The G8 countries are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the UK and the US, with Spain also invited to this week's G8 meeting. The commission has participated fully in the meetings since 1981.

Specifically the EU executive wants the meeting's final statement to agree on the need to limit global temperature rises to 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels, a threshold that scientists have identified as crucial.

It is also pushing for the leaders to agree on the need for a 50 percent reduction in global emissions by 2050 on 1990 levels, something that would necessitate an 80 percent emission cut from developed countries.

"This is the most important issue, to have binding targets from the developed countries. Without binding targets we will not convince the developing countries to give their contribution to this global response," said Mr Barroso.

However, environmental NGOs are concerned that despite the possibility of setting long-term targets, specific mid-term targets will not be agreed.

"It's like saying we'll go to the summit of Everest but we aren't going to provide any oxygen or climbing ropes," Greenpeace spokeswoman for the G8 Beth Herzfeld told EUobserver.

"The G8 leaders themselves have the opportunity to move the process forward and show that they are serious to lead on climate change. In order to do that we must have mid-term emissions' cut targets of 40 percent by 2020," she said.

A draft G8 statement produced as recently as last week included mid-term targets but a senior commission official working on the file suggested the current draft no longer contains the specific targets, instead referring to the need to achieve a "robust mid-term reduction".

Another key issue will be the willingness of developed countries to provide financial support to emerging economies to tackle rising emission levels.

"As the largest contributors to past emissions, developed countries have a special responsibility to take the lead but this is not going to be enough. The emerging economies for example …must also join in the effort," said Mr Barroso.

Greenpeace is calling on the G8 to agree to provide $106 billion (€76bn) of the estimated $140 billion (€100bn) emerging nations will need annually to tackle climate change.

Food security

The issue of food security is also emerging as a major issue on the G8 agenda, with the commission setting up a €1 billion food facility last year for the poorest farmers in the developing world using unspent EU funds.

"I hope L'Aquila will move us further forward again. I expect us to agree on a statement for global food security, setting out an agenda for the coming years at the global level," said Mr Barroso.

G8 countries are likely to back a recent US call for a "coordinated approach" to food aid and development.

Last week US deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs Michael Froman said the proposal and the money involved would build on a global partnership programme on food security launched at last year's G8 meeting in Japan.

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