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Leading nations sign climate deal

February 16, 2007 By Olive Heffernan This article courtesy of Nature News.

Leading politicians agree a new proposal to tackle climate change at US meeting.

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Legislators from the world's wealthiest industrialized nations and from major developing countries have signed a non-binding agreement to reduce carbon emissions. The announcement came at the end of a two-day summit in Washington DC.

In a bid to influence the follow-up to the Kyoto Protocol, which ends in 2012, delegates from the G8 industrialized nations and five major emerging economies approved a proposal to establish a global 'cap and trade' market to limit carbon emissions.

The agreement proposes international caps for greenhouse-gas emissions, with both industrialized and developing countries accepting limits on emissions: under the Kyoto agreement, only developed nations are forced to do this. Countries that have signed up to Kyoto can reduce their emissions figures by participating in markets such as the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme.

The new agreement will be presented for consideration to the next G8 summit, where member nations — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States — will once again discuss the issue of how to tackle climate change.

Limits defined

Organised by the Global Legislators for a Balanced Environment (GLOBE), a climate-change forum for the G8 and the major emerging economies, the Washington summit also agreed on the importance of setting maximum acceptable limits for atmospheric carbon-dioxide concentrations. The closing statement said that the goal should be to stabilize concentrations at between 450 and 550 parts per million of CO2 equivalent. At present CO2 levels are around 380 parts per million.

While recognising the importance of technology and innovation in achieving these targets, the forum emphasized that "carbon markets form a very powerful tool in the fight against global warming", said Elliot Morley, president of GLOBE International, who opened the forum on 14 February.

"The most crucial aspect of the proposal will be to achieve sustainable targets," said Morley, who until last year was the UK minister for climate change. "And the greatest challenge will be to get both emerging economies and the United States to sign up to the agreement."

"We hope this will act as a catalyst for action, to go further and faster on tackling climate change," he added.

Morley says that the summit's outcome reflects shifting attitudes towards climate issues in the United States. "There has been more movement on this issue in the past six months than in the previous seven years," he says. Congress is currently considering five separate climate-change bills. It remains to be seen whether the change of mood will swing far enough for the White House to signing a binding agreement on carbon reductions.

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