The G8 Summit in Gleneagles has ended with a call from UK Prime Minister Tony Blair for a new dialogue on climate change, clean energy and sustainable development. While environmentalists criticised the lack of concrete targets on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, their fears of "backward steps" on the science of climate change were not realised.

"We were never going to be able to resolve differences over Kyoto, or negotiate targets" at the G8, Blair told a press conference at the end of the conference today. "But if it's impossible to bring America into the consensus on tackling climate change, we'll never ensure that the huge emerging economies of China and India are part of the dialogue."

"We haven't made any progress, but at least we haven't gone backwards, which was what we feared," said John Lanchbery, head of climate change at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, one of the UK's largest conservation groups.

Few observers had expected the summit to result in firm targets for reducing emissions – given implacable opposition from the US administration. But leaks of early drafts of the communiqué had suggested that the US was refusing to agree to even hitherto uncontroversial aspects of the science.

A hard line from the French reportedly helped to avert a split, and the final release noted that the "increased need and use of fossil fuels, and other human activities, contribute in large part to increases in greenhouse gases associated with the warming of our Earth's surface."

Attention among environmentalists and others now turns to the UK's continuing presidency of the EU, which runs until the end of the year, and the next UN climate change meeting, in Montreal in November. "There are still opportunities for real progress, the next being through the UK presidency of the European Union at the first Meeting of the Parties of the Kyoto Protocol in November in Montreal," said Greenpeace International climate campaigner, Stephanie Tunmore. "In highlighting the central role of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change [UNFCCC], including as the forum for negotiations on future action, the G8 leaders have put the spotlight on the next UN climate change conference later this year in Montreal," said the UNFCCC's executive secretary, Joke Waller Hunter. "The UNFCCC [to which the US remains a signatory] provides the forum for intergovernmental cooperation on this global problem now and, as the Gleneagles declaration states, for negotiations on future steps," she added.

Environmentalists also praised the involvement of major developing countries – Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa – in the Gleneagles summit. The five countries expressed support for the Kyoto process, and called for financial and technical assistance to encourage low-carbon economic development.


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