Global Leaders Take First Step Toward Climate Change

Global Leaders Take First Step Toward Climate Change

Blackfish Lake, Alaska, an area affected by climate change
Photo: Courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

The Group of 8 Summit began yesterday in Italy, and climate change was front and center in the talks. That’s good news in that at least the leaders of the most powerful—and most polluting—nations in the world have this topic on their minds.

Day one, unsurprisingly, yielded little progress. But by the end of today’s discussions, leaders of 17 of the world’s developed and developing economies actually agreed to “reduce their emissions 80 percent or more by 2050 as its share of a global goal to lower emissions 50 percent by 2050,” according to a White House briefing. They also agreed that warming shouldn’t exceed two degrees Celsius (35.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

That’s not all. The Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate—the name President Obama gave his meeting, henceforth dubbed MEF—outlined a pseudo-blueprint to move this process forward, including when global and national emissions should peak (as soon as possible), who should pay (a variety of sources, both public and private), and many other details.

In the green-technology realm, each of 14 countries agreed to spearhead advancement efforts in different areas. The U.S. got energy efficiency, Germany, solar energy, Brazil and Italy, bio-energy, etc. You get the picture. (And if you want more detail, check out the briefing.)

Most of the analysis I’ve read today, particularly opinions from the UN, were a bit on the harsh-side, suggesting that these outcomes were disappointing or that Obama’s influence and clout only went so far. But I’m hopeful, maybe naively so, that it’s at least a step forward. As Obama put it during today's news conference, “It is no small task for 17 leaders to bridge their differences on an issue like climate change.”

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