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Groups Say G8's Green Commitments Fail Africa

G-8 leaders in Italy pledged to cut global emissions 50 percent by 2050. But advocacy organizations say that the commitment is much too weak and too vague for sub-Saharan Africa, which is already facing serious challenges due to a changing climate.

The advocacy groups say that the 2050 deadline set by the G-8 leaders is much too far away to address the serious issues arising from changing global temperatures.

Tom Sharman, head of climate change policy at the international development organization "ActionAid," claims African nations need an immediate commitment from industrialized nations both to cut their emissions by 2020 and to provide emergency funds to help affected countries respond to climate-related disasters.

"What the G-8 and the major economies forum agreed [to] was only to talk about the targets for 2050, which is a long way off and probably hardly any G-8 leaders will be alive at that date," he said. "What they really needed to do was talk about the 2020 target and how much money they're going to put on the table - and they failed to do either."

One of the criticisms of the G-8 pledge is its vague wording regarding the base year for determining the agreed upon emissions cut. The statement declared the 2050 emission levels were to be "compared to 1990 or later years," leaving what critics suggest is a wide open door for G-8 leaders to hedge on the actual specifics of the pledge.

George Malakwen, the assistant director at the "Eastern Africa Environmental Network," says that those regions that have had least to do with the shifting climate are now the ones suffering the most from its consequences. As an example he points out this year's severe drought in East Africa.

"Although [the] eastern Africa region has not been part of the industrialized world, and is not still, yet it is actually bearing the greatest brunt of climate change," said Malakwen. "Many people are dying because of hunger; crops are failing; livestock are dying - even the wildlife, which is actually one of the backbones of the economy in terms of tourism."

A recent report by development organization "Oxfam International" links the current hunger crisis being experienced across the region to the shifting climate trends. The report predicts that changing seasons and prolonged droughts could dramatically decrease the yield of maize crops, the staple food of a quarter billion East Africans.

Recent studies also show that changes in climate may severely disrupt the livelihoods of the pastoralist herders in the region.

Sharman predicts that the people of sub-Saharan Africa will not be impressed by the pledges they have received from the G-8 leaders.

"I think if they see what the G-8 have said, they will be extremely disappointed and once again feel that the G-8 leaders are not really understanding Africa's problem, particularly in the case of climate change where Africa is one of the continents that stands to be hit first and hardest by climate change and yet has done least to contribute to the problem," he said.

According to the "International Governmental Panel on Climate Change," emissions from industrialized nations must be cut 25 to 40 percent by 2020 to avoid global climate-related disasters.

In reviewing the G-8 Summit this week, U.S. President Barack Obama said discussions on climate change had improved chances for further negotitaions later this year. He said the discussions had been "candid and spirited."