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G-8 as climate change forum: baby steps

Leaders agreed that warming must be stopped, but few specifics were reached on how to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

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From left, US President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, and Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso pose for a G8, G5 and Egypt family photo, at the G8 summit in L'Aquila, Italy, Thursday.

Eric Feferberg, Pool/AP

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The Group of 8 summit in Italy, which turned largely into a climate change conference in the past 48 hours – agreed to limit global warming to an average of 2 degrees Celsius (3.5 degrees F).

While that is seen as a significant step forward, there was no agreement yet on specific short-term moves to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050 – something insiders considered politically unrealistic ahead of the meeting.

The G-8 "was a giant leap for the US, and one small step for mankind," says Bastian Hermisson of the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Germany, a think tank aligned with the Green Party, in describing US climate policy shift from the Bush to Obama administrations. At the G-8 last year in Japan, after many years of disagreement with global warming initiatives, dating to the Kyoto Protocols, and with much consternation in European states – the Bush White House agreed on a 50 percent reduction in gases by 2050. [EDITOR'S NOTE: .]

The G-8 summit of the largest industrial nations, often focuses on economic issues, and the first day there was discussion of the global recession. But by Thursday, this G-8 (joined by five key emerging nations) was being described as an important forum for climate change. Still, the world's leaders are leaving much to be decided at a September G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh, and a major climate conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, at year's end.

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