It appears that the G8 pledge to do everything possible to keep global warming below 2°C (3.6°F) by 2050 is questionable. Less than 24 hours after leaders of the world’s largest economies were heralding a breakthrough in climate agreements, the “bad boys” of international climate negotiations — Canada and the Russia — broke ranks.

Environment Minister Jim Prentice indicated that there were no plans to adjust Canada’s current goals which will only cut the country’s GHG emissions by about 50% over 1990 levels. “No, we don’t need to change our policies,” said Prentice in describing the the 80% target as “aspirational.” “Really, when you are speaking of 2050, by that time some of the significant technological changes that are necessary will have been made and so Canada’s position is quite consistent with that,” Prentice said.

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev’s top economic adviser called the target by the G8 “unacceptable” even though Russia, like Canada, is a member in a group that includes the US, Japan, Great Britain, France, Germany and Italy. “We are not going to sacrifice our economic growth” in order to secure greater cuts, said Arkady Dvorkovich. He then added that further climate talks are useless without commitments from the largest emerging economies.

And there’s the rub. Emerging economies, like China, India, and Brazil, emit a notable percentage of the world’s GHG emissions but don’t enjoy a high standard of living. In the absence of firm commitments from the G8 to cut emissions by 2020, developing countries question why they should sacrifice their economic progress while wealthy nations fail to make tough decisions.

Environmental groups are seething. The Pembina Institute called Canada’s position “very disappointing” while the Climate Action Network’s Angela Anderson said that “since the US has moved out of the ‘bad-boy’ status, Canada and Russia have become the bullies of the climate change process.”

President Barack Obama will try to smooth ruffled feathers as he leads a Major Economies Forum (MEF) focusing on climate change. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has already predicted that no breakthrough will be forthcoming. In rare breaks in diplomacy, both Obama and Prime Minister Gordon Brown are said to have expressed consternation over Canada’s position.

The International Energy Agency welcomed the G8 call to action, but warned that very few developed nations will be able to meet their carbon reduction commitments without a massive financial commitment to renewable energy and energy efficiency.

“This is a step in the right direction, but, much more needs to be done,” said IEA Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka. “Investment in energy efficiency and clean technologies would need to increase four-fold if we want to keep the rise in global average temperature under 2° Celsius. This means $400 billion more every year over the next 20 years.” (Source: Financial Post, Wall Street Journal, Voice of America, The Guardian, World Business Council on Sustainable Development, July 9, 2009).

Contact: Stavros Dimas, Commissioner for Environment, European Commission, stavros.dimas@ec.europa.eu, ec.europa.eu/commission_barroso/dimas/index_en.htm; Todd Stern, Special Envoy on Climate Change, US State Department, (202) 647-6252, www.state.gov; Frederic Baril, Press Secretary, Office of Jim Prentice, Minister of the Environment, (819) 997-1441, www.ec.gc.ca.