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Story by The Associated Press

Some of the world’s richest nations threw their weight behind a plan to stamp out fossil-fuel emissions by the end of the century in an unprecedented show of unity on climate change.

The Group of Seven is pushing to cancel out any polluting gases from burning oil, gas or coal by 2100.

The G7 has been under pressure to act on climate change after the world’s biggest polluter, China, took steps to curb its carbon output. The group’s solidarity on the issue is significant before a United Nations meeting in December in Paris, where more than 190 nations will aim to broker the first global emissions-reduction deal that’s binding for all countries.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose turn it was to host the annual gathering, pressed for a commitment to eliminate most carbon dioxide emissions from burning oil, gas and coal. While the goal was set for the end of the century, the seven leaders also asserted that “urgent and concrete action is needed to address climate change.”

Burning fossil fuels produces carbon dioxide, which traps the sun’s heat and warms the atmosphere.

First target in 2050

The leaders agreed to press for a reduction, by 2050, of 40 to 70 percent in the 2010 global emission levels of the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. The range was a disappointment to some environmental activists, but the leaders added they recommended the “upper end” of that range. They also said they would commit to a “transformation of the energy sectors” in their countries to produce fewer carbon emissions.

The leaders hope to achieve “decarbonization” by replacing carbon-based fossil fuels with alternative sources such as wind and solar power. The term is open to interpretations that include the use of some fossil fuels.

Merkel set climate change as a key topic for the gathering, just like she did the last time she hosted it, which was in 2007.

A joint approach

Her challenge was to come up with a united stance in Paris among the group’s advanced economies to better advocate for the goals. The thinking is that negotiations with other countries — including major greenhouse gas emitters such as China and India — would be easier if the developed world took a united position.

Those goals include expanding renewable energies in Africa and getting 400 million people access to insurance against the negative effects of climate change, the G7 said.

The group also called for greater efforts to provide climate aid. Wealthy nations and private investors agreed in 2009 to hand $100 billion a year to developing nations by 2020 to nudge them toward greener development. Few rich countries have set out exactly how they will reach that goal.

“The course is right, but more speed, ambition and specific actions are needed,” said Samantha Smith, who follows the U.N. climate talks for the environmental group WWF. “Developing countries are ready to move fast and far on renewables, but they need finance and technology from rich countries to do it.”

The G7 leaders reiterated their commitment to eliminate “inefficient fossil-fuel subsidies” and said they aim to make the U.N.’s Green Climate fund, which will channel aid to projects in developing countries, fully operational by the end of the year.

Soon enough?

Ulf Moslener, professor of sustainable energy finance at the Frankfurt School of Finance & Management, said the G7 statement was “largely a confirmation of what has already been agreed” on climate change. Its chief value was in getting the developed countries on the same page.

Moslener said the steep reduction implied by Merkel’s decarbonization goal does imply substantial change, “though it has to be said it’s a rather long time horizon.”