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I do leave Syracuse very much concerned that there is no clear pathway to resolving the gaps that remain,” Steiner admitted, saying the main stumbling blocks are setting targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and financing for the greening of developing countries.
The meeting is among several forums on the way to UN talks in Copenhagen in December aimed at sealing an international pact for curbing greenhouse gases beyond 2012.
The G8-Plus talks brought together the environment ministers from Group of Eight members Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States and their counterparts from Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa and South Korea.
Overall, the G8 countries are responsible for more than 40 percent of the world’s carbon gas emissions.
The United States and China are the world’s top two carbon polluters, but US per capita emissions are four to five times those of China and about double those of Europe.
The delegates spelled out “frankly and clearly” the issues on which G8 heads of state and government should “devote their leadership capacities” at their July summit, Italian Environment Minister Stefania Prestigiacomo said.
These include improving energy efficiency, developing renewal energy, sustainable agriculture and transportation and building and protecting ecological infrastructure, a top UN delegate said earlier.
Brazilian Environment Minister Carlos Minc said “great mistrust” remained between North and South, both sides agreed that they could make “substantial compromises” appropriate to their means and situations.
Since the talks here were not required to produce decisions, “they allowed for constructive exchanges between the G8 countries and the others,” Minc told reporters.
Brazil proposed a 10 percent tax on oil industry profits to help poor countries join the fight against global warming, he said.
The development aid charity Oxfam complained of a “first step syndrome” in climate change talks, saying the Syracuse talks were no different.
“Lots of declarations of principle, but no clear and measurable commmitment,” Oxfam said in a statement.
“Even less time is left for reaching an effective agreement among the eight most industrialised nations before the G8 (summit) in July,” the British-based charity said.
The talks in Sicily were buoyed by a sea change in US environmental policy following years of disengagement on environmental issues.
US delegate Lisa Jackson said Thursday she brought a “message of hope” from US President Barack Obama, who already boasts having made more progress on US energy policy in his first three months in office than the United States has seen in 30 years.
“It’s a good feeling to know that the world is waiting to welcome the US to the table and is not too frustrated by the lack of leadership in the past,” Jackson said.
The delegates did agree a “Syracuse Charter” on protecting biodiversity that calls for a “redefinition” of goals set in 2002.
Climate change is a growing threat to biodiversity at a time when a quarter of all animal and plant species may be at risk of extinction, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Prestigiacomo said the environment ministers would send a “strong message” to the G8 summit that economic recovery plans should be “painted green,” stressing in particular the potential for job creation.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi made the surprise announcement while the enviroment ministers were meeting here that the G8 summit would be held in the earthquake-hit city of L’Aquila instead of Sardinia in July.