The Obama administration and other world leaders on Wednesday backed new targets for battling global warming, a move the Bush White House had resisted.
White House officials confirmed that President Barack Obama agreed to language supporting a goal of keeping the world's average temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius.
The agreement by the Group of Eight industrialized nations, meeting in Italy, marks a significant step in efforts to limit greenhouse gases blamed for the world's rising temperature. The G-8 previously had not been able to agree on that temperature limit as a political goal.
It remains only a target, however, and it is far from clear that it will be met, especially as China, India and other rapidly industrializing nations generate and consume more energy from coal and other sources.
Climate change experts say the 2-degree threshold wouldn't eliminate the risk of runaway climate change but would reduce it. Even a slight increase in average temperatures could wreak havoc on farmers around the globe, as seasons shift, crops fail and storms and droughts ravage fields, scientists say.
The U.S. and other nations objected to a farther-reaching climate goal, supported by some Europeans and environmental activists. It would have committed industrialized nations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050, part of a global effort to reduce overall emissions by 50 percent.
G-8 leaders also agreed that the global economy is too shaky to begin rolling back massive fiscal stimulus plans right now, according to a draft statement obtained by The Associated Press.
The leaders said in the draft that they "note some signs of stabilization" but continued to stress the difficult outlook instead of concerns over debt and high spending.
"The economic situation remains uncertain and significant risks remain to economic and financial stability," the draft read. "We will take, individually and collectively, the necessary steps to return the global economy to a strong, stable and sustainable growth path."
The leaders did commit to prepare exit strategies from the "unprecedented and concerted action" that has been taken to boost growth through government spending, low interest rates, and expansive monetary policy. Germany, worried about running up cripping debt, has pressed for spending restraint, while other major economies like Britain, Japan and the United States can't rule out the need to pump in more money.
The measures include continuing their stimulus packages while keeping inflation under control, a particular German concern, while also ensuring that banks have enough cash to keep lending.
In the meantime, the countries will prepare exit strategies, with the help of the International Monetary Fund, which will vary from country to country as the measures themselves have, the draft said.
The leaders gathered Wednesday in the quake-devastated central Italian city of L'Aquila, where they also wrestled matters such as the global rise in temperature. Over dinner later, they planned to turn their attention to world security issues from Iran to North Korea.
Italian host, Premier Silvio Berlusconi, welcomed the leaders, many of whom arrived at the summit in electric cars bearing their nation's flag. President Obama strolled into the summit site for the first G-8 meeting of his presidency.
The abrupt return home of Chinese President Hu Jintao after ethnic tensions soared in China's western Xingjiang territory could weaken trust-building discussions on making further progress on climate change.
China is among five developing market economies - along with Brazil, India, Mexico and South Africa - who are participating in the summit for the fifth straight year, joining from Thursday to discuss bringing them on board, aid and development. Also joining are nine African nations and a forum on climate change.
The summit will also discuss ways to expand the Group of Eight even further amid growing sentiment that world's most-industrialized nations can no longer claim leadership on the global political and economic agenda.
Obama signed an $787 billion economic stimulus bill in February, but experts say only about 15 percent of that has made its way into the economy so far - creating a debate between the wait-and-see camp and economists who urge another stimulus, arguing the recession proved to be deeper and more devastating than originally believed.
The document also calls for a rapid conclusion to the stalled Doha trade round, but failed to set a deadline. G-8 leaders will discuss this with other leaders tomorrow, the statement said.
The G8 draft statement on the economy calls for an "enhanced global framework for financial regulation" and to address flaws in the current system to help prevent future economic crises, but fails to make any concrete proposals. Leaders say they will address issues such as executive pay, definition of capital, risk management and the regulation of hedge funds and credit rating agencies.
This program aired on July 8, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.