WASHINGTON – Leaders of the world’s eight major industrial nations have agreed to take immediate steps to curb global warming as part of the Group of Eight summit, though they will not set concrete heat-trapping gas reductions or specify how much money they will spend on the effort.
The leaders’ joint statement, which was obtained by the Washington Post and will be released today, represents a qualified political victory for the White House. Bush officials successfully resisted calls from their European and Japanese allies to adopt a more ambitious framework for addressing climate change, while foreign leaders managed to include a limited endorsement of mandatory carbon-emissions cuts and language linking global warming to human activity.
The two-page document, a drastically slimmed-down version of earlier G-8 drafts, states that while some uncertainties about climate change remain, “we know enough to act now and to put ourselves on a path to slow, and, as science justifies, stop and then reverse the growth of greenhouse gases.” It also suggests “human activities contribute in large part to increases in greenhouse gases associated with the warming of our earth surface,” and says all the countries that have pledged to bring greenhouse gases down to 1990 levels by 2012 as part of the Kyoto Protocol “welcome its entry into force and will work to make it a success.”
U.S. officials managed to excise swaths of text that called for “ambitious” greenhouse gas reductions and committed G-8 countries to spending a specific amount on environmentally friendly projects. They eliminated the opening sentence, “Our world is warming,” as well as lengthy descriptions of how melting glaciers and rising sea levels testify to recent climate change.
Bush’s deputy national security adviser and lead G-8 climate negotiator, Fayar Shirzad, told reporters Thursday he was pleased with the talks’ progress. While he did not comment in detail on the final joint statement, he said the summit had allowed participants “to find the common ground and one that reflects a series of goals that the president has long advocated, which is to look at the issue of climate as a part of a broader set of interrelated issues of economic development, energy security, dealing with the problems of pollution, and then through that, also dealing with the issues of climate change.”
American environmentalists criticized the final statement Thursday as inadequate.
Philip E. Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust, called the agreement “utterly meaningless, the weakest statement on climate change ever made by the G-8. The G-8 leaders did not agree on a single concrete action to address climate change. Not one new dollar was committed by any country to develop technologies – they just told the World Bank to go do it with no new financing.”
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