G8 to agree on climate “shared vision”

Food

The Group of Eight leaders are likely to refer to a “shared vision” to halve global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 in a statement to be issued later on Tuesday, a source briefed on negotiators’ talks said.

The source, speaking to Reuters before the leaders met to discuss a final document, also said that the G8 would probably urge big emerging economies to share that same vision. If confirmed, the careful and vague wording of the climate statement -- always the most contentious part of summit negotiations -- was unlikely to satisfy those seeking much more specific targets.

Last year, the G8 club of rich nations -- Japan, Britain, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Russia and the United States -- agreed merely to “seriously consider” a goal of halving global emissions by mid-century. The European Union and Japan have been pressing for this year’s statement to go beyond that, and Brussels wants clear interim targets as well. But US President George W. Bush has insisted that Washington cannot agree to binding targets unless big polluters such as China and India rein in their emissions as well.

“I think basically they are trying to paper over fundamental differences among the G8 over their approach,” said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists. “As long as the US and the Europeans are fundamentally at odds, you’ve got gridlock.” The G8 leaders were likely to hail the statement as progress, however, and earlier on Tuesday European officials sounded positive about the outcome.

“The European Commission is confident and optimistic about the outcome and that this will mean an important step compared with Heiligendamm,” an EU source told Reuters, referring to last year’s summit in Germany. “You know what the (European Commission) president’s idea of success was and when he was briefed this morning there was a smile on his face.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday after a morning meeting with US President George W. Bush that she was “very satisfied” with the G8’s work on the issues of climate change as well as on soaring food and oil prices, also high on the agenda. Bush did not mention those issues in his brief comments after the bilateral talks.

The statement on climate change was also expected to highlight agreements to develop new technologies and provide funds to help poor countries limit greenhouse gas emissions. Activists have been wary of prospects for real progress until a new US president takes office next year.


SOARING FOOD AND FUEL PRICES

Global warming ties into other big themes at the three-day meeting at a plush mountain-top hotel on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, where 21,000 police have been mobilized. As well as climate change, the G8 will also set out positions on aid to Africa, soaring food prices and the global economy in a raft of statements due to be issued later on Tuesday.

A Japanese government official told reporters G8 leaders had agreed on the need for stability in oil and food prices, as well as in financial markets. He said they did not specifically discuss foreign exchange issues.

The price of oil, which hit a record high of $145.85 a barrel last week, is taking a particularly heavy toll on the world’s poor. A World Bank study issued last week said up to 105 million more people could drop below the poverty line due to the leap in food prices, including 30 million in Africa. “How we respond to this double jeopardy of soaring food and oil prices is a test of the global system’s commitment to help the most vulnerable,” World Bank President Robert Zoellick said on Monday. “It is a test we cannot afford to fail.”

To help cushion the blow, officials said the G8 would unveil a series of measures to help Africa, especially its farmers, and would affirm its commitment to double aid to give $50 billion extra in aid by 2010, with half to go to the world’s poorest continent.

The summit wraps up on Wednesday with a Major Economies Meeting comprising the G8 and eight other big greenhouse gas-emitting countries, including India, China and Australia. (Reuters)

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