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[BEIJING] Developing countries will be unable to meet the target for carbon emissions reduction set by G8 nations without compromising their development, a study has found.

The target, proposed at the G8 summit in L'Aquila, Italy, in July, called for a 50 per cent cut in global emissions by 2050, with industrial countries cutting emissions by 80 per cent.

This means developing countries' accumulated emissions must not exceed 304 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from 2006 to 2050, says the study, published in Science in China Series D: Earth Sciences in October. The total figure, including developed countries, must not exceed 416 billion tonnes.

The researchers analysed the carbon emissions of four scenarios for development. They found that if developing countries pursue the greatest development, their emissions could reach 422 billion tonnes during that period.

The results are based on data from 'China's Low-Carbon Development Pathways by 2050' (see China faces colossal bill for a low-carbon economy) and China's share of 37 per cent of developing countries' emissions from 1995 to 2005, assuming this remains constant.

"The carbon emissions of developing countries will greatly surpass the G8 goal even if they adopt the strictest cutting strategies," says Fang Jingyun, lead author of the research and professor of ecology and environment at Peking University, China.

Fang's group calculated per capita carbon emissions in developed countries from 2006 to 2050 of 81 tonnes, compared with just 40 to 47 tonnes in developing countries, which will "further aggravate the historic inequality of carbon emissions".

"To fulfil the G8 target, developing countries will have to slow down the process of industrialisation," says Fang. "Also, the target may cause dispute among developing countries on how much responsibility each one should take."

The researchers suggest that developing countries should be immune from emissions caps to avoid harming their development.

"As an industrialising country, China will continue depending on fossil fuels for quite a long time, which will definitely increase carbon emissions," adds Fang. "However, there is much space for China to cut carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP. Setting targets of cutting carbon intensity will be more feasible."

Jiang Kejun, a researcher at the National Development and Reform Commission's Energy Research Institute, is more optimistic.

The researchers' scenarios are "comparatively simple, without considering more sophisticated elements such as technological revolution, which will largely help exploit developing countries' emissions cuts potential", Jiang told SciDev.Net.

Link to abstract in Science in China Series D: Earth Sciences (Chinese only)