The G8 summit, held two weeks ago in Heiligendamm, Germany, was heralded as ‘groundbreaking’ by world leaders, but the reality, while not hopeless, is not quite this revolutionary.
Climate change was the most discussed matter at the summit. Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor and this year’s host, aimed at an agreement between all eight countries to cut carbon emissions by 50% by 2050, or to limit the rise of global temperatures by 2°C.
US?President George Bush wanted to ensure that whatever agreement he signed, China and India would follow suit, so as not to cripple the relative competitiveness of American industries. While the proposal fell through, Bush has finally accepted that global warming is an issue that needs to be addressed. bringing him in line with other world leaders. He has agree to a UN framework to discuss emission targets.
The “groundbreaking” agreement publicised by the media, has faced criticism. Dr. Neil Carter, lecturer in environmental politics at the University of York commented: “whilst Bush has clearly shifted a little, his initiative was essentially a way to undermine Merkel’s plans for G8 agreement on climate change and by proposing his own approach he is undermining the UN approach that produced Kyoto.”
A colder issue at the summit was the US missile defence shield to be built in Eastern Europe, the aim of which is to stop possible Iranian nuclear warheads. However, its positioning nearer Russia than the Middle East has caused conconcern in the Kremlin.
Having threatened to “reconsider European targets”, Putin offered a radar site in Azerbaijan, closely tied to Russia and closer still to the Iranian border. Washington’s reply will be telling as to the real intentions of the missile shield.
At Gleneagles two years ago, Blair announced an agreement to direct £50bn to Africa in developmental aid by 2010, as well as universal access to medical care for all of the continent’s AIDS carriers.
These goals were reiterated by the final Heiligendamm communiqué, but the statement speaks of five million AIDS carriers in Africa, half the number given by most statistics.
The word “universal” does not figure anymore, while the aid target set in 2005 is becoming increasingly unrealistic; with only three years left to the end of the decade, only 10% of the aid has been given to the continent.
EU and American trade barriers, seen as unfair on underdeveloped countries, were only briefly discussed in Heiligendamm. Bob Geldof claimed the summit was a “farce”, but while the conclusions reached are not as radical, there has been a small move towards serious action being taken on some global issues. Nevertheless, it remains to be seen whether it is just a false hope from the worlds most powerful states.