RUSUTSU, Japan – Leading industrial nations on Tuesday endorsed halving world emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050, Japan's prime minister said, edging forward in the battle against global warming but stopping short of tough, nearer-term targets.
The Group of Eight countries — the United States, Japan, Russia, Germany, France, Britain, Canada and Italy — also called on all major economies to join in the effort to stem the potentially dangerous rise in world temperatures.
"The G-8 nations came to a mutual recognition that this target — cutting global emissions by at least 50 percent by 2050 — should be a global target," Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said.
The G-8 last year at a summit in Germany pledged to seriously consider the same target, and this year's Japanese hosts had hoped to solidify that commitment at the current meeting in Toyako, northern Japan.
The G-8 has been under pressure to voice commitments by wealthy nations to push forward stalled U.N.-led talks on forging a new accord to battle global warming by the end of next year.
Tuesday's statement, however, addressed world emissions rather than just those produced by wealthy countries.
Environmentalists criticized the statement for failing to go beyond the G-8 statement last year.
"So little progress after a whole year of Minister meetings and negotiations is not only a wasted opportunity, it falls dangerously short of what is needed to protect people and nature from climate change," said Kim Carstensen, Director WWF Global Climate Initiative.
Environmentalists have argued that the 50 percent reduction target was insufficient, and have clamored for ambitious midterm targets for countries to cut emissions by 2020. Japan itself has set a national target for cutting emissions by between 60 percent and 80 percent by 2050, but has not yet set a midterm goal.
Such shorter-term targets, however, have been much more difficult to reach consensus on. The United States, for instance, has argued that meeting an Europe-supported goal of reducing emissions by between 25 percent and 40 percent by 2020 is unrealistic.
In a nod to such disagreements, Fukuda said the G-8 countries would set individual targets.
"The G-8 will implement aggressive midterm total emission reduction targets on a country by country basis," he said.
The United States hailed the agreement, which Washington said fit with its stance that all major economies — such as China, India and others — need to participate in reducing emissions. Major developing nations have urged wealthy countries to take the first step in cutting greenhouse gases.
"It has always been the case that a long term goal is one that must be shared. So the G-8 has offered today is a G-8 view of what that goal could be and should be but that can only occur with the agreement of all the other parties," said Jim Connaughton, chairman of the White House's Council on Environmental Quality.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the agreement constituted a "new, shared vision by the major economies" that would support the U.N.-led effort on a new global warming accord.
"This is a strong signal to citizens around the world," he said in a statement, calling for a renewed push behind the U.N. talks, which aim to conclude a new pact at a meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December 2009.