Lost chance

G8 summit a damp squib

Published: Sunday 31 July 2005

What about chairperson Tony Bl (Credit: Chris young / Crown)leaders of the world's eight largest economies, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the uk and the us, convened at Gleneagles, Scotland from July 6-8, 2005, for the annual g 8 summit. Predictably, they made no progress on the two main issues on their agenda: evolving a policy to fight climate change and providing solutions for Africa's poverty. A series of blasts in London on July 7, 2005, shifted the summit's focus from the South to the North.

The us, the only g 8 nation yet to ratify the Kyoto Protocol (kp), the global treaty to fight climate change, succeeded in rejecting a call to set a specific timetable to reduce greenhouse gas (ghg) emissions. The Gleneagles Communiqu issued by g 8 leaders at the summit's close is empty rhetoric, allowing both Europe and the us to claim pyrrhic victory. It merely says global warming is a "serious long-term challenge" and nations should act with "resolve and urgency" to reduce ghg emissions. It also reflects a split between the us and the other members; a section states, "those of us who have ratified kp, welcome its entry into force and will work to make it a success".

The rich nations were evidently unwilling to compromise on their economies: they pledged to strengthen market mechanisms to fight global warming, an easy way out since buying carbon credits won't hamper their own economic growth. They also harped on 'clean technology' to reduce ghg levels: "We will support efforts to make electricity generation from coal and other fossil fuels cleaner..." But past experiences show this may not reduce levels of carbon dioxide, the key ghg. "Bush's insistence on new technologies and research gives the impression there isn't really an urgent problem," says John Lanchbery, head of climate change at uk-based Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Economic gain is the motive even in the initiative to increase African aid, campaigners allege, as it seeks to impose privatisation. "Private enterprise is a prime engine of growth...enhancing governance and rule of law will attract more and broader private investments," says the communiqu. Courtesy a pledge by Japan, aid to Africa was decided to be raised from the current us $25 billion annually to us $50 billion by 2010. But Bush blocked the proposal of g 8 members boosting foreign aid to 0.7 per cent of their national incomes.

Through their separate statement issued during the summit, developing nations China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa, besides urging adherence to kp, also called for technology transfer, a system to cap ghg emissions by developed countries and a framework going beyond

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