US President Barack Obama is hoping to restore momentum to the search for a global deal on climate change this year when he chairs a meeting of the major economies during the G8 summit in Italy this week.
Obama is hoping that the 17-nation meeting — which will include G8 members and a range of other major economies that produce roughly 80 percent of world carbon emissions — will sign up to a pledge to prevent world temperatures increasing by more than 2ºC, the maximum thought permissible before climate change becomes irreversible.
It is the first time that Obama has backed the pledge. He will also travel to Moscow ahead of the G8 to try to bind Russia to a global climate change deal.
The meeting of the leading nations is being held in a former army barracks in the Italian town of L’Aquila. The venue was switched to the town, which was shattered by an earthquake earlier this year, by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and the luxuries of normal world-leader summits will be notably absent.
In what could prove a pivotal meeting on Wednesday at the summit, Obama will use his prestige to pull together the developed and developing countries ahead of a make-or-break UN session in Copenhagen designed to set the future framework on climate change, post 2012.
Obama is said to be willing to take the initiative by dropping long-standing US opposition to the 2ºC target, according to a draft communique.
“The fact that Obama is chairing this meeting and really wants to make progress shows how far the US has traveled over the past year,” a British official said. “We are not expecting the developing countries to sign up to targets at this summit, but we need to start making progress.”
In Italy, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is also hoping to sell his ambitious plan, unveiled last week, of a US$100 billion-per-annum climate change aid program. Brown is the first world leader to put a figure on the amount of green technological aid the West might need to fund to help developing countries grow sustainably.
He is trying to break a diplomatic logjam by proposing the financing package by 2020, much of the figure coming from the private sector. He hopes the proposals will be a lure for developing countries such as India to commit themselves this year to carbon reduction targets.
In a severe blow to those hoping to secure a global deal on climate change, India last week again ruled out committing itself to carbon reduction targets. India is the fourth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, and its emissions are projected to treble by 2050.
The UN is supposed to agree a post-2012 climate change framework in Copenhagen in December.