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G8 endorse 50 by '50

At the G8 meeting in Japan this week, eight leaders from the richest countries in the world met to discuss Africa, climate change, food shortages and other global economic issues. 

After the Scottish G8 at Gleneagles in 2005 where targets were agreed for aid, climate change, and access to anti-HIV drugs for Africa, the G8 released a statement in advance of this year's summit committing to a 50 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, with mid-term targets to be decided by individual countries.

However, the targets are based on a 50 per cent cut from today's levels as opposed to the baseline of 1990, as it was in the Kyoto protocol. Greenhouse emissions have increased by more than a quarter since 1990. By committing only to 50 per cent cuts from today's levels the G8 are reducing their proposed reduction to a mere 35 per cent.

This carefully constructed statement also turns attention away from the G8 climate change summit being led by the United Nations and concluding in Copenhagen in December 2009.

European Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso said: "Now we need to go the extra mile to secure an ambitious global deal in Copenhagen that will enable the world's nations to rise to the challenge together."

The talks are going ahead to map out a framework to replace the Kyoto protocol once it expires in 2012.

However, environmental organisations reacted angrily to the statement ridiculing it as 'pathetic' (WWF) and 'a stalling tactic' (Oxfam International) with all agreeing it is further evidence of a lack of truly strong and decisive leadership on the part of these world leaders. UK-based development agency Tearfund accused the G8 of 'dithering'.

Following the statement's release WWF slammed the proposed targets stating: "The G8 are responsible for 62 per cent of the carbon dioxide accumulated in the Earth's atmosphere, which makes them the main culprit of climate change and the biggest part of the problem. WWF finds it pathetic that they still duck their historic responsibility."

With no serious mid-term goals set out for the foreseeable future many fear that not even this tepid response to climate change will be achievable/achieved, spelling disaster for many of the world's developing countries as well as undermining any planned measures or those already in place to assuage its effects.

Antonio Hill, spokesperson for Oxfam International said: "At this rate, by 2050 the world will be cooked and the G8 leaders will be long forgotten. The G8's endorsement of a tepid '50 by 50' climate goal leaves us with a 50/50 chance of a climate meltdown."

The G8 comprises Japan, Britain, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Russia and the United States. Mexico, Brazil, China, India and South Africa, the largest emerging economies, were also invited to join the summit this year to represent the global south.

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published: 11 July 2008