Wednesday, July 9, 2008

No concrete action from 'stepping stone' G8 summit

By chief political correspondent Lyndal Curtis

ABC News Online, Posted 2 hours 32 minutes ago
Updated 2 hours 23 minutes ago

The G8 conference in Japan is over and its critics would say it has little to show for its expense and high-powered meetings.

While members of the Group of Eight also got together with seven other leaders of major economies, including the developing nations of China, India and Indonesia, there was no breakthrough on cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Hope for firm commitments will now rest on the international climate change conference next year, but there's no guarantees about that. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says that without leadership the next meeting may fail.

Many observers believe that the world's leaders and the heads of the world's major economies travelled to the northern island of Japan for three days of meetings and didn't achieve very much.

There were no firm commitments from the G8 leaders for cutting greenhouse gas emissions and no firm commitments either from the developing nations that made up some of the extra eight countries attending the last day of the summit.

There was no concrete action to bring down the price of oil beyond a British proposal for a second meeting of producers and consumers, following the meeting in Saudi Arabia last month.

Not real action, although some extra money for solving the problem of rising food prices in the developing world and not much beyond some optimism the latest round of world trade talks may be successful in liberalising trade in agriculture.

The one area where there was strong action was Zimbabwe, where the G8 condemned the Government of Robert Mugabe as an illegitimate regime and threatened sanctions.

Call to action

Mr Rudd, attending Australia's first G8 meeting as one of the eight extra invitees, acknowledged there were no great breakthroughs but he does believe it was an important stepping stone on the road to the climate change summit in Copenhagen next year.

He has however issued a strong call for the world's leaders to take responsibility for the process or risk a failure in Denmark.

"My argument and the belief of the Australian Government is that we need to see all governments - developed and developing countries - begin to fashion a grand consensus, a grand bargain on climate change between now and Copenhagen," he said.

To encourage the leaders to provide the necessary guidance, there will be another leaders' meeting before Copenhagen.

"That is an advance by way of the processes with which we are engaged," Mr Rudd said.

"Far too often, ministerial negotiators are left out there, let me use an Australianism - swinging in the breeze - in the absence of sufficient political direction from heads of government on concrete proposals."

Mr Rudd has set some goals for that conference in Denmark. He wants firm targets from developed countries, he wants measurable and verifiable commitments from developing countries, and he wants agreements on new technologies to be developed to help deliver on the targets.

Global challenges

In explaining the lack of bold moves in the G8 in the areas of climate change and oil and food prices, Mr Rudd says the leaders are facing truly global problems that are difficult to tackle.

"Every head of government around the world who attended this meeting spoke of their own domestic experience of these three sets of global challenges," he said.

"And as the Prime Minister of the UK indicated, and I don't think I am speaking out of turn reflecting his comments in term of the meeting, we're the first generation of world leaders to have to deal with each of these matters as genuinely global challenges requiring global responses."

Adapted from a report from ABC radio's AM, July 10.

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