Wednesday, July 9, 2008

No G8 climate breakthroughs, Rudd admits

By chief political correspondent Lyndal Curtis

ABC News Online, Posted Wed Jul 9, 2008 6:26pm AEST
Updated Wed Jul 9, 2008 7:59pm AEST

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has acknowledged there have been no great breakthroughs on climate change at the G8 major economies meeting in Japan.

Mr Rudd is adamant that while the meeting did not end up with bold action, it was an important step in ensuring world leaders take a lead during the climate change debate.

Mr Rudd has warned that it will take leadership and international co-operation to produce meaningful results at the Copenhagen conference next year.

"The challenge will be great and there has been no huge breakthrough at this particular meeting," he said.

"It is one step along the road.

"But, I think I can speak in relation to all heads of government who attended this meeting, there is clear focus on the need for a substantive outcome at Copenhagen."

He is realistic about what has been achieved in Hokkaido, describing the day simply as useful.

"It's been one step forward in what's going to be a difficult process, but I believe that Australia's voice has been projected, Australia's voice has been heard," he said.

"But there is still much, much more work to be done between now and the conclusion of this round of negotiations on climate change and bringing down greenhouse gas emissions."

Mr Rudd says the meeting was important, although he and some other leaders he has met with today are pressing for more to be achieved and are putting their eggs in the basket of the Copenhagen climate change summit next year.

"Today was important to see the G8 resolve to move towards a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent by 2050," he said.

"This is an important step forward.

"Today in the meeting with the major economies, I indicated that Australia wants to see a new grand bargain, a new grand consensus between developed and developing countries so that we can act together to bring down greenhouse gas emissions in order to save the planet.

"Important for the economy, important for the environment."

He spent the day in the company of world leaders, shaking hands, lunching and meeting on Japan's north island of Hokkaido.

The G8 and its eight invited colleagues, along with the heads of significant international bodies such as the United Nations, spent the day in talks.

Sideline talks

But it may be that more progress was made on issues close to Australia's heart in meetings on the sidelines which Mr Rudd managed to organise.

Mr Rudd won praise for Australia's stance on climate change and backing from Germany for its proposed Nuclear Disarmament Commission.

At the start of the meeting he sat chatting to fellow invitee, India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, with the United States President just three seats away.

He also took part in what is called the family photo - the traditional photo of leaders standing in a line and waving, although the G8 does not go in for the donning of the hosts national costume for which other groupings, such as APEC, are renowned.

In his 10 minute sideline meeting with UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon, Mr Rudd stressed the warnings from the Federal Government's climate change adviser Professor Ross Garnaut.

Mr Ban and Mr Rudd agreed the world has no time to lose on taking action on climate change and an emissions trading scheme.

However, that sense of urgency has not translated into more action.

The G8 meeting has not come up with binding targets, just a goal of long-term cuts and calls for unspecified cuts in the medium term.

Even in today's meeting, which included the major developing nations of India and China, which are under pressure to be part of emissions cuts, the steps towards global consensus were slow.

The meeting agreed that the nations should commit to combating climate change in accordance with common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.

Environment groups have condemned the Summit, calling it embarrassing and a waste of time, saying it made no progress and it was inaction masked as movement.

Mr Rudd has called for leaders to demonstrate political support and momentum for a Copenhagen agreement.

There was also a sense of urgency in the other matters discussed in Mr Rudd's one-on-one meetings through the day and at the wider summit.

The leaders expressed concern over food security, with rising oil prices helping push up food prices.

It is a matter Mr Rudd and the UN's Mr Ban talked about.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Mr Rudd she believes there are positive signs at the G8 on the Doha round, although they both say it is a critical time and a deal needs to be done later this month.

To keep leaders engaged there will be another major economies meeting at the G8 next year.

Food aid contribution

Mr Rudd has also announced that Australia will donate an extra $50 million to the World Bank to fight food shortages and will also push for greater action on liberalising trade barriers.

He remains concerned about the world's financial crisis, saying the world is not out of the woods yet and he has called for greater governance and transparency on financial markets.

Mr Rudd has also accepted an invitation to visit India later this year.

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