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G8 leaders offer only hollow words on global warming

If you are genuinely worried about the threat of climate change, this is a grim G8/G20 summit.

Saturday's G8 communiqué had nothing but empty verbiage on global warming. The consortium of major developed nations pledged "our willingness to share with all countries the goal of achieving at least a 50% reduction of global emissions by 2050." But there were no suggestions about how to get there, or any promises of immediate action.

The leaders are counting on UN-based negotiations in advance of yet another summit on climate change in November to produce results.

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But the truth is, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a reluctant warrior - virtually a deserter - in the fight to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Canada will not act ahead of the United States, where legislation to cap and reduce carbon emissions through a carbon market is stalled in Congress, with no break to the impasse between Democrats and enviro-skeptical Republicans in sight.

The G8 leaders acknowledged that unless global emissions "peak as soon as possible and decline thereafter," there is no hope of making the 2050 target, which will still lead to a global increase in temperatures of 2C.

But their promise to "undertake robust aggregate and individual mid-term reductions," is the most hollow promise of all.

"We want a comprehensive, ambitious, fair, effective, binding, post-2012 agreement involving all countries," the leaders urged. They want the impossible, because neither the United States or China is prepared to take actions that would jeopardize their economies.

France hosts the G8 and G20 next year, and President Nicolas Sarkozy is keen on promoting global action against global warming. But for now, the planet is playing a waiting game.

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About the Author

John Ibbitson started at The Globe in 1999 and has been Queen's Park columnist and Ottawa political affairs correspondent.Most recently, he was a correspondent and columnist in Washington, where he wrote Open and Shut: Why America has Barack Obama and Canada has Stephen Harper. He returned to Ottawa as bureau chief in 2009. More

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