Speaking on the second day of the annual Group of Eight summit in Toyako on the Japanese island of Hokkaido, Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday called the deal to slash greenhouse gases by half "a significant step forward" and said the international community will no longer "get off the hook" on battling climate change.
At last year's G8 summit in Heiligendamm, Germany, the leaders of the world's most industrialized nations had only said they would "seriously consider" such cuts.
Earlier, G8 leaders said they would work with nearly 200 states in United Nations climate change talks to adopt a goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050. The group also said mid-term goals would be needed to achieve that target.
Merkel said the deal to slash carbon emissions was a clear signal that a global agreement had to be reached at the end of next year at a UN climate summit in Copenhagen which is meant to come up with a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2012.
But the Group of Eight industrial nations could not tackle the problem of emissions alone, Merkel said, and hard discussions will be needed to reach numerical targets in time for climate change talks next year in Copenhagen, she told reporters.
The German chancellor added that it was now especially important to get emerging economies, China, India, Mexico, Brazil and South Africa, also known as the Group of Five, on board. Without these skyrocketing economies, a global treaty to tackle climate change made little sense, Merkel said. "Even if the G8 nations halved their carbon emissions by 2050, it would not ease the pressure on the world's climate,“ she said in a press conference.
US President George Bush too has said that Washington cannot agree to the targets unless China and India rein in their emissions as well.
Activist groups have however criticized the G8 agreement to slash emissions by half by 2050 as totally insufficient to prevent climate change and have called for setting ambitious goals for as soon as 2020.
"At this speed, the world will have melted by 2050 and the G8 leaders will be long forgotten," said Antonio Hill from Oxfam.
Soaring food and oil prices and their impact on the world economy are also high on the agenda as the world's eight leading industrialized powers – America, Canada, Italy, Japan, Russia, France, Britain and Germany – gather for their annual meeting. The heads of the G8 will be joined at talks on Wednesday by leaders of the big emerging economies including China and India, whose rising demand has been cited as one reason for surging oil and commodity prices.