The prospect of an international agreement on climate change appears as remote as ever after a week of frantic negotiations in which a US concession met a rebuff from developing countries.
Negotiators were on Friday trying to regroup for the next stages of the United Nations negotiations on a successor to the Kyoto protocol, the main provisions of which expire in 2012.
In six weeks, they will meet in Ghana to resume talks on the shape of a global agreement which must be finished at a UN meeting in December 2009 in Copenhagen. But the deep divisions between the G8 and rapidly emerging economies that became apparent in Japan will hinder progress.
The G8 agreed to “consider and adopt” a target of halving global emissions by 2050. The consensus marked a significant shift from President George W. Bush, who had previously refused to set a figure on future emissions.
But India, China, Brazil and Mexico strongly rejected the proposal, arguing that the G8 should agree to cuts of 80 to 95 per cent.
Stephen Hale, chief executive of the think-tank Green Alliance, said: “We are worse off than a week ago.”
Barbara Helfferich, a European Commission official, said the G8 had produced “a half step forward”, not the “full step forward that we would have liked”.
Yvo de Boer, the official in charge of the UN talks, said he was most concerned with the failure of the G8 to set any mid-term emissions targets for 2020. But Mr Hale said the real shift in negotiations would come later this year, with a new president in the White House.