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Emerging powers join G8 summit for tough talks on climate

Video by Florence VILLEMINOT

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-07-09

The G8 summit in Italy welcomes emerging economic powerhouses, including China, India and Brazil, for talks aimed at reaching a new deal to combat global warming.

Five emerging economies have joined the G8 summit at L’Aquila in Italy for talks on climate change and the global financial downturn, amid reports of small progress in tackling environmental issues.
On Wednesday, the Group of Eight countries – USA, France, Germany, Japan, the UK, Italy, Canada and Russia – agreed to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times.

While leaders agreed to cut emissions by between 50 and 80 percent by mid-century, Russia dismissed the target as “unacceptable and unattainable.”

US President Barack Obama will chair climate talks on Thursday as emerging countries such as China and India are expected to echo Russia’s doubts on efforts to cut gas emissions.

Indian negotiators said developing countries first wanted to see rich nations’ plans to provide funds to help them cope with increasing floods, heatwaves and storms, as well as rising sea levels. Temperatures have so far risen by 0.7 degrees since the beginning of the industrial revolution.     

On Thursday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the G8 did not go far enough in setting targets for tackling climate change. "This is politically and morally (an) imperative and historic responsibility ... for the future of humanity, even for the future of the planet Earth," he said.

A weak recovery

Talks on climate change are likely to be overshadowed by concerns over the global economic downturn and its impact on the world’s poor as China, India, Mexico, Brazil and South Africa, the so-called Group of Five, and Egypt, join the summit.

The enlargement of discussions to non-G8 gave credit to misgivings raised over the usefulness of the G8 in the 21st century. “It’s sure that after the creation of the G20, which was launched at the London Summit in April, the G8 no longer has any real purpose,” said FRANCE 24’s Stéphanie Antoine, reporting from L’Aquila.

“The G8 was created in the seventies and used to be a very exclusive club,” she said, ”but with the emergence of China and India, the G8 is no longer representative.”

As G8 leaders implicitly recognised that a small elite can no longer tackle the global downturn, the International Monetary Fund warned of a weak economic recovery and forecast a slightly steeper 1.4 percent contraction of the world economy in its latest outlook, though predicting 2.5 percent growth next year.

During talks on Thursday, a breakthrough on trade seemed to be within reach as leaders vowed to conclude the Doha round of trade talks aimed at liberalising global markets by next year, a draft declaration said.
Leaders in L’Aquila also agreed to refrain from competitive currency devaluations and promote a stable international financial system. Chinese officials stressed the need for a more diversified currency system in the wake of the financial crisis.

Chinese President Hu Jintao was not present at the talks after hurrying back home in the wake of deadly riots in the north-western Xinjiang province, where officials say 156 people were killed in ethnic clashes in the main city of Urumqi.

Iran crackdown

The summit also addressed the post-electoral violence in Iran, where security forces have cracked down on demonstrations in the wake of the disputed June 12 presidential election which handed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a second term.

G8 members issued a joint declaration expressing “serious concern about the recent events in Iran,” but fell short of taking any concrete steps against the country.

On the nuclear front, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the world’s richest nations would give Iran until September to accept negotiations over its nuclear programme or face tougher sanctions.

On the margins of the global get-together in the earthquake-struck Italian town, the French president also called for the “immediate” release of a young French academic held in Iran on charges of espionage.

Date created : 2009-07-09