158 countries agree on rough emissions targets

Negotiators from 158 countries agreed Friday on rough environmental targets aimed at getting the world's biggest polluters to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Negotiators from 158 countries agreed Friday on rough environmental targets aimed at getting some of the world's biggest polluters to reduce emissions of the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

The negotiators at the week-long UN climate conference in Vienna concluded that industrialized countries should strive to cut emissions by 25 per cent to 40 per cent of their 1990 levels by 2020.

Experts said that target would serve as a loose guide for a major international climate summit to be held in December in Bali, Indonesia.

"We have reached broad agreement on the main issues," said Leon Charles, a negotiator from Grenada who helped oversee the Vienna talks.

Delegates worked into Friday evening to overcome resistance from several participating countries — including Canada, Japan and Russia — that had held upnegotiations because they preferred a more open approach rather than setting emissions targets.

Canada's environmental plan, released in April by the Conservative government,does not meet the rough targets set out in Vienna.

TheConservatives have calledfor overall emissions to be reduced by 20 per cent of 2006 levels by 2020. The targets are intensity based, meaning companies must reduce the amount of emissions per individual unit produced, but they don't have to reduce emissions overall.

The Vienna targets are not binding, but they were seen as an important signal that industrialized nations are serious about slashing the amount of carbon dioxide and other dangerous gases to try to avert the most catastrophic consequences of global warming.

Friday's agreement sought to ease concerns that the emissions target might be too ambitious for some nations, noting that efforts to cut back on airborne pollutants are "determined by national circumstances and evolve over time."

But it made clear that greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced to "very low levels" to guard against potentially deadly flooding, drought and other fallout.

"Hence the urgency to address climate change," the agreement said.

The Bali conference will try to forge a new global agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions after 2012, when the 1997 Kyoto Protocol expires. The accord requires 35 industrial nations to cut their emissionsfive per cent below 1990 levels by 2012.

Environmental groups stressed that developed countries need to take urgent measures to keep Earth's temperature from rising more than 2 C — a limit scientists contend is critical to prevent catastrophic flooding and other deadly weather patterns.

"They need to be guided by the potential calamity," said Angela Anderson, vice-president for climate programs at the U.S. National Environmental Trust.