July 7, 2008

Warming Tops Summit Agenda ; Deep Divisions May Block Agreement on Emissions


RUSUTSU, Japan The world's top industrialized nations begin their annual summit today.

Global warming, a slowing world economy and continued efforts to alleviate world hunger and poverty will be on the agenda.

Leaders from the Group of Eight the United States, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Canada, Italy and Russia started gathering in the northern Japanese resort village of Toyako on Sunday for three days of meetings among themselves and with heads of African nations and top economies such as China.

The summit also coincides with demanding foreign policy issues like the effort to strip North Korea of its nuclear weapons, mounting international pressure on Iran to stop uranium enrichment, and the threat of U.N. Security Council sanctions on Zimbabwe over its one-sided presidential election.

The meeting's Japanese hosts poured security agents and riot police about 20,000 of them into the isolated venue and surrounding towns, sealing access to the summit hotel and cloistering the 5,000 journalists covering it at Rusutsu, a resort 20 miles away. Protesters were limited to rural villages or the distant city of Sapporo.

Despite the demanding agenda, concerns were high that the political uncertainties in some member countries particularly the United States, where President Bush is 200 days away from the end of this term could prevent decisive action. The leaders of France, Japan and Britain also face domestic problems.

Climate change is a top agenda item for the Toyako summit. The U.N.-led talks aimed at forging a new global warming accord by the end of 2009 have stalled because of deep disagreements over what targets to set for greenhouse gas reductions, and how much developing countries like China and India should be required to participate.

Late last month, Japan's Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda spoke with Bush on the phone, reportedly telling him, "I'd like to make the summit meeting a success, so I'd like to ask for your cooperation on the global-warming issues, too."

In response, Bush reportedly said the United States and Japan could work together on the issue.

The G-8 leaders agreed at last year's summit in Heiligendamm, Germany, that they would consider making a 50 percent cut in the world's greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and as this year's chair, Japan hopes to transform this long-term goal into an actual agreement during the summit.

But a number of challenges, including global warming, cannot be tackled by the G-8 leaders alone.

At a press conference in Washington on Wednesday, Bush reiterated the U.S. position that effective agreement will be impossible without China and India, underscoring his argument that any agreement reached only within the G-8 would be meaningless.

As of Sunday, it was still unclear whether nations would be able to agree to a goal of cutting their emissions 50 percent by 2050.

"I don't think they're going to do much. They're going to kick the can down the road," said Alden Meyer, a climate change expert with the Union of Concerned Scientists, suggesting real progress would have to wait for a new U.S. president in January.

With global oil prices surging, the G-8 leaders are expected to urge major oil producers to increase supplies while also calling for steps to improve energy efficiency and develop alternative sources of energy within their own economies. Oil spiked to a record $145.85 a barrel Thursday.


This article contains material from The Yomiuri Shimbun.


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