Prospects dim for G8 climate change deal
Monday, 07 July 2008

Reuters, Tokyo, Japan- Prospects that the G8 would reach a meaningful agreement to fight global warming at their annual summit dimmed on Sunday as leaders began arriving in northern Japan with a raft of global problems on their minds.

Climate change is high on the agenda of the July 7-9 summit of rich nations at a luxury hotel in Toyako, Hokkaido, and of a Major Economies Meeting on July 9 that brings the G8 together with eight other countries including China, India and Brazil.
Global inflation driven by soaring food and fuel prices, African poverty and the continuing effects of the credit crisis are also on the G8 agenda, as are foreign policy issues as wide-ranging as Zimbabwe's election crisis to progress in dismantling North Korea's nuclear program.
Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, who arrived in Hokkaido needing a successful summit to bolster limp ratings, wants to add to momentum for U.N.-led talks on a new framework beyond limits agreed under the Kyoto Protocol, which expire in 2012.
Those negotiations are due to conclude in Copenhagen in December next year.
But wide gaps among Group of Eight members and between advanced and developing countries have raised doubts about the chances for progress beyond last year's summit in Germany, where leaders agreed to "seriously consider" a global goal of halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
"I don't think we're expecting a deal. That will come under the United Nations' auspices in Copenhagen next year," Canada Environment Minister John Baird told reporters en route to Japan.
"What we hope is that we can get some momentum toward a solid progress on climate change."
The G8 comprises Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, Canada and the United States.
Activists and the European Union want the G8 to agree to the 2050 goal discussed in Germany and set 1990 as the base year, and say advanced nations should set their own firm mid-term goals for reductions by 2020.
Japan wants the leaders to agree to the 2050 goal but without specifying a base year.
U.S. President George W. Bush insists Washington will only set targets if big emerging economies such as China are on board as well.
Analysts and diplomats have said that the G8 leaders were likely to craft a fuzzy agreement on a long-term goal to allow Fukuda to save face, but that real progress will likely have to wait until a new U.S. president takes office in January.
"Both advanced and developing countries are close to an agreement on the long-term target," Japanese Environment Minister Ichiro Kamoshita told NHK public TV.
"China and India were not against the idea at the environment ministers meeting. We now want the United States to make a firm commitment and take a step forward at the summit."
Climate experts want advanced countries to commit to reducing emissions by 25-40 percent by 2020. Tokyo and Washington say specific interim targets are not on the table in Hokkaido, although a statement to be issued at the end is likely to acknowledge the need for advanced countries to set them.
"Mid-term targets will ultimately be decided at Copenhagen next year," Kamoshita said. "We need to be prepared (to set a target), but it's a matter of national interest whether we need to set a target before other countries."
But a deal that falls short of mid-term targets is unlikely to satisfy either environmentalists or Fukuda's domestic critics, who say Tokyo should at least come up with a figure of its own.
"It's hard to understand why Japan is not setting a mid-term target," said Katsuya Okada, the opposition Democratic Party's point man on climate change. "There's no reason to be hold back because of the United States."
With the attendance of several African leaders, this is the largest gathering since the event began more than three decades ago at the Chateau de Rambouillet outside Paris in November 1975 to discuss the oil crisis and a world recession.
Some charge that the summit, which draws huge media coverage, countless activists and sometimes violent protests, has got out of hand. Twenty two leaders will be in Hokkaido.
"The first summit was a very small affair. They got in a room, said they were facing a crisis, did a little horse trading and came up with a plan," said Robert Feldman, chief economist at Morgan Stanley in Tokyo.
"It has become something of a carnival ... and got away from the original intent, which was to sit in a room together -- the human side of negotiating and getting things done," Feldman said.
"It's unwieldy and it's not leading to a lot of results."

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