In the face of some fairly tough odds, the G8 leaders have managed to reach agreement on a deal to tackle global climate change.
They have agreed to negotiate a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol by 2009 which will include "substantial" cuts in emissions.
The details will be thrashed out by environment ministers of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change based upon the priciples agreed at Heiligendamm. The Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012 and until now it was not clear on what priciples any successor agreement would be based.
Angela Merkel the German Chancellor and G8 President was keen to get agreement to stiff targets in terms of emissions reductions ; namely a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050. Nothing this precise has been included in the agreement, but it is likely that in later negotiations this target will be seriously considered.
Inevitably there have been compromises. Angela Merkel has not secured agreement on precise targets for emissions reductions; President Bush has not been able to avoid being drawn into a UN lead process. However, all the leaders agree that binding goals on reducing emissions are necessary and that developing countries, and in particular China and India should be included in the process.
This is encouraging stuff. The fact that the major industrialised nations agree that climate change is an issue is encouraging. Being able to agree on the principles of how it should be tackled is a huge step forward.
It is not all roses however. Principles have been agreed at the top but there is a lot of negotiating to be done before details are confirmed and targets are set. For the moment nothing is compulsory.
If the good intentions are followed by effective action, it is just possible that China and India will be inspired by the commitment of the G8 countries to tackling climate change and follow their lead.
Let's hope so, without China and India's help our ability to influence global climate change is seriously restricted.
Sources : Federal Government Website and BBC News
Photo courtesy of Federal Government/REGIERUNGonline/Kühler