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G8 Leaders Praise 'Momentum' on Climate Change as Summit Ends

Leaders of the world's advanced economies have drawn their three-day summit to a close by meeting with counterparts from major emerging economies to propose what they call a "vision" on climate change. VOA's Kurt Achin reports from Hokkaido.

U.S. President George W. Bush became the first to depart the G8 summit, shortly after its close in northern Japan, praising the gathering's progress on a wide range of issues.

"By protecting our environment, and resisting protectionism, and fighting disease, and promoting development, and improving the daily lives of millions around the world, we've served both our interests as Americans and we serve the interests of the world," President Bush said.

The centerpiece of the three-day gathering was Tuesday's broad agreement among G8 leaders to slash carbon emissions, blamed for global warming, at least in half by the year 2050. Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda says the leaders discussed that goal with leaders from major emerging economies, Wednesday, including China, India and Brazil.

He says this the first time that there has been a discussion on the broad on the topic of fighting global climate change. He says all of the nations involved expressed strong political will to reduce their emissions.

But only three of the emerging economies, Indonesia, South Korea and Australia, explicitly committed to the 50 percent reduction plan. That leaves out two of the world's fastest growing carbon emitters, India and China.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says ensuring food security, public health and management of scarce water resources are his first priority. More than a half-billion Indians live in extreme poverty, on less than a dollar a day. China is also reluctant to take steps that would jeopardize economic growth and risk political instability.

Environmental activists are sharply criticizing the G8 climate goals for failing to set hard numerical targets for carbon reduction. The 50 percent goal is not linked to any specific base year for calculation. Shorter-range targets are being urged, but left completely up to the discretion of member countries. Prime Minister Fukuda says the agreement sets the stage for more talks in the future.

He says the strong will expressed in the climate agreement will translate into momentum next year, when a United Nations-hosted gathering will seek a global agreement on climate change. He promises Japan will show leadership, by sticking to some of the world's more ambitious targets for emissions reduction.