G8: cutting emissions?

Japan’s Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda had made it clear that Environment and Climate Change would be a top priority for the G8 summit held from July 7 to 9 in Hokkaido Toyako

Global warming is a huge challenge, and humanity has no time to lose.

(quote from his welcome speech)

On the webpage of the japanese Ministry of foreign affairs it is possible to find the final summit leaders declaration as well as the Declaration of Leaders Meeting of Major Economies on Energy Security and Climate Change . In the first document, the fabulous 8 declare

We seek to share with all Parties to the UNFCCC the vision of, and together with them to consider and adopt in the UNFCCC negotiations, the goal of achieving at least 50% reduction of global emissions by 2050, recognizing that this global challenge can only be met by a global response, in particular, by the contributions from all major economies, consistent with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.

This is good news in a sense, because it is the first time that the Bush White House publicly backs an explicit long-term target for eliminating polluting emissions. However, this sounds like a missed opportunity to environmentalists. As noticed by Olive Heffernan (Climate Feedback)

Despite the inclusion of a goal for 50% cuts by 2050 in the G8 declaration, it’s not at all clear what this alledged target means. If, as suggested by Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, they are intending to cut emissions by 50% of current levels, then that’s not nearly as ambitious as cuts based on a 1990 baseline.

The statement, which seems purposefully vague, also fails to clarify which nations would have to make the deepest cuts in emissions to reach this global target of 50% and whether the target would be legally binding. Responding to the offer, Mexico, Brazil, India, China and South Africa said yesterday that G8 nations should slash their emissions by 80% by 2050 and set firm nearer term targets if they are to agree on a global deal.

Fortunately, our beloved world leaders didn’t miss the opportunity to offer us some unforgettable anectodes, such as Berlusconi blowing kisses , and Bush joking about the U.S. being the world’s biggest polluter.

Illustration: Red Nose Studio for TIME magazine (btw, check out the beautiful Red Nose Studio portfolio here)