L'AQUILA, Italy --President Obama said Thursday the global recession makes it harder to strike an international agreement to battle dangerous temperature increases, but he urged the poor emerging economies that rejected specific clean-energy goals to "fight the temptation toward cynicism" and embrace them soon.
"There is no contradiction between environmentally sustainable growth and robust economic growth," Obama said at the conclusion of a forum of the world's 17 major economies, which account for about 80 percent of emissions of heat-trapping gases blamed for global warming. "We can either shape our future or we can let events shape it for us."
The Group of Eight nations -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States -- agreed at their summit in this central Italian town to a goal of cutting the world's greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050, and emissions from their countries by 80 percent by then to help get there. But developing nations, invited to join the summit of their wealthier industrialized counterparts to talk climate change, refused to sign on for specific emissions-reductions targets for their own countries.
The rich and emerging nations also together declared for the first time that average global temperatures should not rise higher than 2 degrees Celsius above those of preindustrial times. But the leaders made no commitments to do anything in the near term, say by 2020, to reach that goal.
Obama, his goal of a sweeping new agreement between the developed and developing world on climate denied here, nonetheless portrayed the summit a success.
"While we don't expect to solve this problem in one meting, or one summit, I believe we've made some important strides forward," he said. "It is no small task for 17 leaders to bridge their differences on an issue like climate change."
He said the U.S. -- with its "much larger carbon footprint per capita" -- now means to lead by example.
"The United States has sometimes fallen short of meeting our responsibilities," Obama said. "Let me be clear, those days are over."
And he prodded others to follow.
"Today's problems are made by human beings," the president said. "That means it's within our capacity to solve them. The question is whether we have the will to do so."