Amid protests G8 meets, split on Africa and climate
By Sean Maguire
GLENEAGLES, Scotland (Reuters) – Protesters clashed on
Wednesday with police protecting the world’s most powerful
leaders who arrived for a Group of Eight summit still divided
over tackling climate change and helping Africa.
Hooded activists smashed car windows and fought with riot
police in the nearby town of Stirling while others set up
impromptu barricades on the roads around the heavily guarded
complex hosting the summit of G8 leaders.
Police made 60 arrests as anti-capitalist, anarchist and
environmentalist groups sought to capture the protest limelight
that has until now been occupied by thousands of campaigners
pressing for an end to poverty in Africa.
G8 leaders were flown by helicopter to the luxury
Gleneagles hotel complex over the heads of hundreds of
demonstrators who rallied against a steel fence protected by
Inside, celebrity anti-poverty campaigners pressed British
Prime Minister Tony Blair to overcome opposition from other
leaders to doubling aid to Africa to $50 billion a year,
opening world markets to African goods and cancelling debt.
“Not to get poverty stopped would be a terrible, terrible
human failure,” said Bob Geldof, rock star and prime mover
behind the “Live 8″ concerts that ringed the globe on Saturday.
Standing beside Blair and Bono, lead singer of U2, Geldof
said there was still time to fight for a better deal and
British sources said talks were continuing on aid and trade
Blair already has a debt relief deal in his pocket and
should secure some promises on extra aid, though not in amounts
aid agencies believe are needed to raise Africa from poverty.
He will not get the ambitious deal he wanted on financing
long-term development for Africa and faces opposition from the
United States on his other goal — a deal to combat the harmful
emissions that most scientists say are warming the earth.
U.S. CLIMATE PLAN
President Bush said he would propose a worldwide effort to
invest in alternatives to oil and gas as Washington’s answer to
the challenge of climate change.
“Listen, the United States, for national security reasons
and economic security, needs to diversify away from fossil
fuels. And so we’ve put out a strategy to do just that. I can’t
wait to share it with our G8 friends,” the U.S. president said.
Bush, in a new emphasis in U.S. policy, acknowledged more
loudly than before humans were to blame for climate change and
said it was in Washington’s interests to respond.
“I recognize the surface of the Earth is warmer, and that
an increase in greenhouse gases caused by humans is
contributing to the problem,” he told a news conference.
Critics deride as insufficient the U.S. reliance on
technological fixes to global warming rather than the emissions
caps agreed by other G8 countries under the Kyoto protocol.
Negotiators said the climate change communique remains
unfinished, with France demanding mention of the Kyoto treaty,
which all G8 countries except the United States have signed.
“Kyoto will be mentioned, but I don’t exclude that there
will again be discussions on removing it,” said German G8
negotiator Bernd Pfaffenbach.
The opening of the summit, which starts with a dinner
hosted by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, was overshadowed by
London’s victory over rivals Paris to host the 2012 summer
Blair and French President Jacques Chirac are locked in a
bitter dispute over the European Union. But Blair denied
tension between the leaders would mar the summit, saying France
had given strong backing on climate change and Africa.
“Whatever differences we have in other areas, in those
areas they have been tremendously helpful, France, even in the
last few days in trying to get agreement,” Blair said.
The leaders are expected to write off more than $40 billion
in debt to 18 mainly sub-Saharan African states, with another
20 countries potentially eligible later.
Aid agencies say even that will do little to overcome
Africa’s problems. They argue that 62 countries need 100
percent debt relief if they are to meet the goals agreed at the
United Nations of halving poverty and disease by 2015.
A “Live 8″ rock concert in the Scottish capital Edinburgh
later on Wednesday was intended to add to pressure on the
leaders of Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, Italy,
Canada and the United States.
Concerns over energy were underscored in the draft
declaration on economic issues, which was shown to Reuters.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has insisted that the
G8 be seen to act over oil prices. But there were few concrete
measures in the draft declaration, which is expected to be
changed little by the leaders in their discussions.
The draft says the G8 objects to high oil prices and wants
clear information on oil reserves to counter speculation in the
markets that may damage global economic growth.
Oil prices rose to a record of $60.95 a barrel last week,
driven by high demand, notably from China.