G8 and Major Economy Leaders Agree to Slash Greenhouse Emissions

The leaders of the world’s countries with the largest economies, including the United States and the European Union, have agreed to slash global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050, with the intent to hold global warming at less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. At last week’s meeting of the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized nations, which includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, the nations’ leaders agreed that developed countries should reduce their aggregate GHG emissions to at least 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, while the world as a whole should cut its GHG emissions in half. The G8 leaders acknowledged the 2-degree-Celsius limit and recognized that global GHG emissions “need to peak as soon as possible and decline thereafter” to hold global warming below that limit. The G8 leaders also pledged to take the lead in accelerating the transition toward a low-carbon economy, including various measures to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency.

The G8 meeting was also expanded to include other major economic powerhouses from throughout the world for the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, which included the G8 plus Australia, Brazil, China, the European Union, India, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, and South Africa. That larger group also recognized the 2-degree-Celsius limit for global warming and acknowledged that global and national GHG emissions should peak “as soon as possible,” but also declared that the peak in GHG emissions should occur later for developing countries. The members of the major economies also established a global partnership to drive the development of low-carbon, climate-friendly technologies.

“I believe we’ve made some important strides forward as we move towards Copenhagen,” said President Obama, referring to the United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held in December. “I don’t think I have to emphasize that climate change is one of the defining challenges of our time. The science is clear and conclusive, and the impacts can no longer be ignored. Ice sheets are melting. Sea levels are rising. Our oceans are becoming more acidic. And we’ve already seen its effects on weather patterns, our food and water sources, our health and our habitats. Every nation on this planet is at risk, and just as no one nation is responsible for climate change, no one nation can address it alone.” President Obama also highlighted recent U.S. actions to address climate change, declaring that “one of my highest priorities as president is to drive a clean energy transformation of our economy.”