PARIS - French President Jacques Chirac called on Tuesday for developed countries to cut gas emissions to a quarter of current levels by 2050 -- exceeding targets set by the Kyoto pact to combat global warming.
Signed by 141 nations but rejected by the United States, the Kyoto protocol comes into force on Wednesday. It aims to stem a rise in temperatures which scientists fear could raise sea levels and wipe out thousands of species.
Chirac, who is due to discuss climate change with US President George W. Bush in Belgium next week, said the July summit of the Group of Eight industrialised nations would be an opportunity to make progress on the issue.
Kyoto requires rich nations to cut emissions of greenhouse gases -- mainly carbon dioxide emitted by burning fossil fuels in power plants, factories and cars -- by 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-2012.
"We must go further -- divide by four by 2050 the greenhouse gas emissions of developed countries. The next G8 summit must be an opportunity for advancing in this direction," Chirac told a working group, according to the Elysee presidential palace.
"France supports Britain's wish to make this a priority. Europe must continue to set the example. I want France to try to exceed its Kyoto commitments without waiting until 2012," Chirac added.
The United Nations has warned that Kyoto is only a small first step.
The United States, the world's top polluter, pulled out in 2001 with Bush saying it was too costly and wrongly exempted developing nations from the goals set for 2012.
"Our first objective this year must be to reengage the United States in the international effort to fight climate change," said Chirac.
Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair said at the weekend that persuading Washington to support global efforts on climate change would be Britain's main challenge in the coming months.