Climate-change deal reached at G8

The Obama administration joined the leaders of other countries in agreeing in principle to a deal on climate change that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions in developed countries by 80 percent by 2050.

The agreement is the first step in combating climate change and setting the stage for meaningful change at the climate-change summit in Copenhagen in December, administration officials said.

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The agreement shoots for a global reduction in emissions by 50 percent and agrees to recognize "the broad scientific view that the increase in global average temperature above pre-industrial levels should not exceed 2° Celsius."

Administration officials told reporters at the G8 summit in L'Aquila, Italy to expect additional language in a statement by the Major Economies Forum countries on Thursday.

"Obviously these are difficult issues and there's much negotiation that lies ahead, but collectively both this declaration and the declaration to come out the Major Economies Forum tomorrow will be a significant contribution towards addressing the issues as part of the Copenhagen negotiations," said Mike Froman, National Security Adviser for international economics.

Froman said that at the Major Economies Forum at the G8 on Thursday "there will be further steps taken by both developed and developing countries, and I think by the time these meetings are over you'll see that there's been a significant step forward in dealing with the climate change issues, and in support of the U.N. negotiations toward Copenhagen."

Despite that optimism, the 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050 will be a goal of the G8, not of the MEF, officials said.

Todd Stern, Obama's special envoy on climate change, said "on the 50 and the 80 I think, again, you're going to find that it's still a work in progress, but we don't think that that's something that is off the table." 

"And secondly, it is really a wrong perception of what's going on to say that this is all about 50 and 80.  I mean, those are long-term 2050 targets. They're good things to have," Stern said. "But the action with respect to Copenhagen is going to be much more about midterm action, about stuff that's happening 2020, 2025, and that kind of thing."

While officials said there was some language agreed to in terms of more near-term targets, they said specific numbers were not included in the G8 language.

"I don't think there was ever a discussion of putting our particular numbers into the G8 declaration," Froman said. "The EU has certain numbers. The Obama administration has certain numbers.  Waxman-Markey has certain numbers. What's important is that we've all committed to take actions in the midterm that are consistent with the science, that create credible pathways towards our long-term objectives, and that are broadly comparable."

Froman dismissed the notion that Obama's negotiations are moot because Congress has the ultimate say on climate-change legislation, now before the Senate after narrowly passing in the House.  

"We are eager and want to have that legislation move, but we're -- the two things are on their own tracks and the international discussions will obviously go ahead as the work on the Hill goes forward as well," Froman said.