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Climate negotiations stagnate at G8

Expected agreement falls through as countries disagree over how cuts should be allocated.


In Italy, China and India were said to have insisted that developed countries commit to cuts of 40 percent by 2020. In comparison, the climate change bill that barely squeaked through the U.S. House and faces stiff opposition in the Senate sets a target of a 17 percent cut from 2005 levels by 2020. Were one to use the 1990 baseline, the legislation would mandate a 5 percent reduction.

But the biggest disagreement lies over whether countries should be held responsible for the greenhouse gases that have already been released into the atmosphere.

India has argued that just as industrialized countries such as the United States, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom achieved their current levels of wealth through the burning of coal and oil, poor countries need either fossil fuels to lift themselves out of poverty or significant funding in their place.

“They’re very wary of taking on international commitments unless there’s some real support for them as a quid quo pro,” said David Waskow, director of Oxfam America’s climate change program.

Brazil’s top climate change negotiator Jose Miguez has said his country will proposing holding nations responsible for all the greenhouse gases they’ve ever released.

“The greenhouse effect is not caused by emissions,” Miguez told Reuters last week. “It is caused by the accumulation of emissions in the atmosphere.”

He added that China, India and South Africa would back the Brazilian proposal.

Ultimately, the adoption of such an approach is unlikely. But its implication — rich countries would be asked to cut emissions by more than 100 percent, something that could theoretically be achieved by funding mitigation efforts elsewhere — are a signal of just how wide a gap remains to be bridged.

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