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G8 backs climate-change science, sets no hard goals

Story Highlights

• German chancellor first said she wanted targets set, but is now 'satisfied'
• President Bush has said he wants every nation to set own emissions goals
• Bush: U.S. should set new framework for global gas emissions rules
• Environmentalists say time is running out and action must be taken
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HEILIGENDAMM, Germany (CNN) -- Leaders from the world's eight major industrialized nations "accepted the latest scientific evidence" of the dangers of global warming Thursday but set no targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

President Bush arrived at the Group of Eight (G8) conference Wednesday with a proposal that is similar to what the representatives embraced, despite a desire by German Chancellor Angela Merkel for hard targets.

He proposed last week that the United States establish a new framework on global gas emissions to counter the effects of global warming. (Watch the leaders prepare to discuss climate change Video)

"My proposal is this: By the end of next year, America and other nations will set a long-term global goal for reducing greenhouse gases," Bush said at that time.

According to the communique agreed on Thursday, nations will stabilize, then reduce, greenhouse gas emissions and will "seriously consider" plans by the European Union, Canada and Japan for halving emissions by 2050.

Bush, who withdrew the United States from the 1997 U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, or Kyoto Protocol, feels every nation should set its own goals.

More than 150 countries signed the agreement, which mandates limits on emissions.

Bush believes that setting strict targets would damage the U.S. economy, and that industries should enact voluntary measures.

Merkel retreats

The G8 nations agreed Thursday to work through the United Nations for a successor to the protocol.

"Since we met in Gleneagles, [Scotland], science has more clearly demonstrated that climate change is a long-term challenge that has the potential to seriously damage our natural environment and the global economy," the G8 said in its report.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country has the rotating G8 presidency for 2007, had pressed for firm targets, but claimed she was "very satisfied" with Thursday's outcome.

The leaders, she said, accepted the latest scientific evidence of the danger of inaction.

Bush has convinced some officials that he is now taking global warming seriously, and he offered to be a liaison between Europeans, eager to see tough limits on carbon emissions, and nations with growing economies, who fear a slowdown if they agree.

"I've recommitted myself today that the United States will be actively involved, if not taking the lead, in a post-Kyoto framework, a post-Kyoto agreement. I view our role as a bridge between people in Europe and others in India and China."

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, a Bush ally, said, "The possibility is here, therefore, for the first time, of getting a global deal on climate change, with substantial cuts in emissions and everyone in on the deal."

But environmentalists have complained of a lost opportunity, saying the world is running out of time to tackle the problem.

Summit host Angela Merkel sits between presidents Putin and Bush on Thursday, the first full day of meetings.


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