Rich nations pledge action on food, oil, but deadlock on climate
Toyako, Japan (AFP) July 9, 2008
Leaders of the world's top industrial powers ended a summit Wednesday with pledges to act on soaring oil and food prices, but failed to bridge deep differences with poor nations on fighting climate change.
US President George W. Bush hailed his last Group of Eight summit, at which rich nations agreed to at least halve global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, as "very productive".
"I'm pleased to report that we've had significant success," Bush said before he left the resort venue where the annual summit was held in the mountains of northern Japan.
Emerging nations invited to attend a special summit on tackling global warming however declined to back the G8's much-touted carbon emissions goals, saying they amounted to empty rhetoric.
The global economy, under threat from skyrocketing oil and food prices and also being battered by the subprime mortgage crisis that has infected global financial markets, preoccupied the leaders.
"At the heart of the summit were the triple shocks to the world economy: rising oil prices, rising food prices and the credit crunch," said British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
The G8 powers -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States -- account for two-thirds of the world's gross domestic product.
Their leaders said in a joint statement that while global growth had "moderated," they remained positive on the future.
They called for efforts to bring down oil prices, which have jumped five-fold since 2003, as well as the soaring cost of food which has set off riots in parts of the developing world.
"There's a need to improve transparency on the oil market," Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda told a news conference.
G8 leaders also called on all countries to end export restrictions on food to allow supplies to be sent to countries that most need them, Fukuda said.
The summit was dominated by discussions on global warming amid growing concern that rising temperatures caused by carbon emissions are threatening entire species of plants and animals.
The rich nations' club on Tuesday agreed on the need for a global emissions cut of at least 50 percent by 2050, a step praised by G8 leaders as progress after years of hesitation by Bush.
"This, against a 1990 baseline, is a clear step forward. But we must go further," UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said.
But Fukuda said he believed the baseline was current levels and developing countries slammed the statement as too weak.
Leaders including Chinese President Hu Jintao and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tussled with rich nations at a special expanded summit on Wednesday.
The deadlock between rich and developing nations has held up talks on reaching a new climate treaty by the end of 2009 in Copenhagen -- a goal set in December at a UN-backed conference in Bali.
"Climate change is one of the great global challenges of our time," the 16 leaders said in a statement. "Our nations will continue to work constructively together to promote the success of the Copenhagen climate change conference."
But their statement said only that rich countries would implement their own goals for cutting greenhouse emissions while developing major economies would also take action, without proposing any numbers.
European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso defended the summit outcome.
"It is quite wrong to see this in terms of a confrontation between developed and developing countries," he said. "Of course we accept the lion's share of responsibility but this is a global challenge which requires a global response."
But the so-called Group of Five -- Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa -- has demanded that rich nations take the lead, saying they were historically responsible for climate change.
"Until there's a change in the decision of the United States, South Africa finds it very difficult for the G5 to move forward," South African Environment Minister Marthinus Van Schalkwyk told reporters.
Kim Carstensen, head of the WWF environmental group's Global Climate Initiative, accused rich nations of trying to stall action by putting the onus on developing countries.
"Some rich nations get lost in tactics and seem to forget that the survival of people and nature crucially depends on their leadership," he said.
The United States is the only major industrial country to reject the Kyoto Protocol, the current climate change treaty, with Bush arguing that it is unfair as it makes no demands of fast-growing emerging economies.
Leaders also made time to address the crisis in Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe won a violence-marred election after his chief rival dropped out.
The summit "made it clear we would impose new sanctions against an illegitimate regime that has blood on its hands," Brown said, rallying world support for UN sanctions on Harare.
Next year's G8 summit will be held on the Italian island of Sardinia where emerging nations will again be invited to join the dialogue.
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