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G-8 Vows to Cut Emissions but Divisions Remain

Leaders of the Group of Eight nations agreed Tuesday to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050. But on Wednesday, a group of five emerging economies refused to sign the deal, saying they want more aggressive emissions cuts. A reporter examines the story.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Leaders of the world's largest economies, known as the G-8, concluded their meeting in Japan with a pledge to fight climate change. The countries agreed in principle to reduce global emissions by at least half by the year 2050.

    That group includes the United States, which pledged to try meeting that goal for the first time. President Bush spoke afterwards.

    GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: We made it clear and the other nations agreed that they must also participate in an ambitious goal with interim goals and interim plans to enable the world to successfully address climate change. And we made progress, significant progress toward a comprehensive approach.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    But key developing countries, such as China, India and Brazil, were not willing to sign on to the same targets. And there were plenty of critics who said the pledge was too vague, nonbinding, and were frustrated that deep cuts would not take effect for years.

    One of those critics was the chairman of the U.N. panel that issued a series of reports on the impacts of climate change, Rajendra Pachauri.

    RAJENDRA PACHAURI, Chair, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: I mean, what kinds of deep cuts? There's no point in only focusing on 2050 if you're not going to pay any attention to immediate targets and immediate actions.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, for more on this agreement, let's turn to Andrew Revkin. He covers climate and the environment for the New York Times and he writes the climate change blog for the paper, Dot Earth.

    Andrew Revkin, first, let's talk about the summit of the industrialized countries, the United States, Germany, France, and the others. What in brief did they agree to do about climate change?

  • ANDREW REVKIN, New York Times:

    Well, it's kind of nuanced. They pledged essentially to work with the rest of the world's countries toward eventually cutting emissions, all global emissions from every country, in half by 2050, but there are a significant number of waffle words. It's not the equivalent of "they will cut."

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So waffle words, how much teeth is there in that?

  • ANDREW REVKIN:

    There's no teeth. It's literally aspirational. That word shows up a couple of times.

    Now, again, this is still meaningful, because until now, since I've been covering this stuff since the late '80s, when countries started talking about it, and back then they couldn't even come up with a number, in terms of what kind of cut in emissions would be needed.

    So moving from the language back to 1992, which was all the nations of the world basically pledged to avoid what they called dangerous human interference with the climate system, now at least there's a number floating out there for what actually would still be just the first step. Cutting the gases in half doesn't stop the amount in the atmosphere from still rising.

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