Bush accepts need for UN climate agreement

The US joined other G8 industrialised nations at the summit in Heiligendamm last week in agreeing on the need for a UN agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

The agreement marks a potential breakthrough in overcoming US resistance to the UN process to tackle climate change. But the US has yet to agree to abide by binding emission reduction targets or to using the UN Kyoto Protocol as the basis for such targets.

A common position is badly needed as a precursor to setting global climate policy beyond 2012, when targets for developed countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions under the first commitment period of the UN Kyoto Protocol are set to expire.

By signing the summit declaration, US President George Bush agreed with the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the UK that the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was the "appropriate forum for negotiating future global action on climate change.”

A UNFCCC meeting in Indonesia in December will be critical to negotiating a post-2012 agreement. The world’s biggest emitters could agree on the way forward by the end of next year, contributing to a global agreement under the UNFCCC in 2009.

The Kyoto Protocol could be renegotiated to cover a second commitment period. However the US appears to want a fresh start.

The path to a global climate policy is far from clear, as several groupings of nations will discuss options over the next two years. President Bush still plans to lead parallel negotiations among the world’s biggest emitters.

The G8 agreed to "consider seriously" a goal proposed by the EU, Japan and Canada to at least halve global emissions by 2050. Climate science suggests a cut of this size is needed to avert severe impacts. However, the US – along with Russia – kept some distance from the proposed goal.

The US continued to insist that any future climate change agreement must include China, India and other major developing nation emitters.

The leaders of five rapidly developing nations – China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa – separately promised to contribute their "fair share" to tackling climate change, given that industrialised nations are responsible for the bulk of existing atmospheric greenhouse gases from human sources.

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