Developing countries agreed last night to limit the rise in global temperatures due to climate change but rejected pleas by rich nations to sign up to a specific target to cut their carbon emissions.
A day after G8 leaders agreed to reduce their emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, nine developing nations, including China, India and Brazil, made clear a long, hard negotiation lies ahead if a new global deal on climate change is to be struck at crucial talks in Copenhagen in December.
At talks with the G8 leaders chaired by the US President, Barack Obama, the nine developing nations endorsed the G8's call for the average rise in global temperatures to be limited to C. But they stopped short of matching the G8's decision by agreeing to halve their emissions by 2050. Instead, they promised to discuss firm emissions reduction targets in the run-up to Copenhagen.
Mr Obama hailed the 17-nation agreement as an "unprecedented commitment" but admitted: "I am the first one to acknowledge that progress on this will not be easy." He added: "We did not expect to solve this problem in one summit, but I believe we have made some important strides forward.... We can either shape our future or we can let events shape it for us."
Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations Secretary General, criticised G8 leaders for not going further by setting interim targets for 2020 and to finance efforts by developing nations to embrace low carbon technology. He said: "The leaders of G8 must be aware of their historical responsibility for the future of humanity. There must be bold and ambitious targets so we can seal the deal."
The G5 nations – China, Brazil, India, Mexico and South Africa – yesterday called for developed countries to cut emissions by 40 per cent by 2020. With 150 days to go to the Copenhagen summit, a crucial meeting will be held by the UN in New York on 22 September.
Gordon Brown struck a more upbeat note. He described yesterday's talks as "a significant moment on the road to Copenhagen", adding: "We have made huge progress."
Ed Miliband, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, said: "This is a very important step forward and shows politics catching up with the science of climate change. This will define the way governments have to deal with climate change not just in the coming months but for future generations."
But green groups expressed disappointment. Tom Picken, international climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: "Despite their pledge to limit global warming to C, the [17-nation] Major Economies Forum [MEF] has one arm tied behind its back because rich countries meeting at the G8 failed to show leadership by slashing their own emissions first and fastest."
Phil Radford, Greenpeace USA's executive director, said: "The failure is one of leadership from the G8.When they try to blame China and India for the failure, their excuse will be hollow. It is hard to believe that any of the G8 heads of state had the audacity to look the leaders from the developing world at the MEF in the eyes and talk about joint action to protect the climate."
On its final day today, G8 leaders will approve a $15bn (£9bn) package to tackle hunger in the world's poorest countries as they agree to switch aid programmes from emergency relief to long-term agricultural projects.
Yesterday they set a deadline for a new global trade deal to be completed next year. Trade ministers will meet soon to try to kickstart the long-delayed Doha round. But such deadlines have been set before and not been met.