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Thursday, July 10, 2008

G8 SUMMIT 2008

Summit outcome belies high expectations


Staff writer

TOYAKO, Hokkaido — The drive for economic prosperity by the major nations still outweighs the urgent need to save an ailing planet.

A proposal by the Group of Eight industrialized nations to cut global carbon emissions by 50 percent by midcentury was rejected by the emerging economies Wednesday.

The G8 nations and eight developing countries, including China and India, failed to reach agreement on the 2050 goal or have it incorporated in the 16-country joint statement, issued Wednesday after a meeting in Toyako, Hokkaido.

The pitch was insufficient for the non-G8 countries, leaving the G8 nations and their developing counterparts at odds as the Toyako summit concluded Wednesday.

But despite the lack of developments Wednesday, experts agree that lowered expectations might help prevent the meeting from being labeled a letdown.

"Superficially, the Toyako summit could actually be seen as a success because the G8 agreed to seek and share a long-term commitment to prevent climate change," said Tokue Shibata, a professor emeritus of Tokyo Keizai University. "I felt that was progress. It was too much to expect more than that."

Experts as well as major conservationist figures, including Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Chairman Rajendra Pachauri and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, had publicly stated prior to the summit that numerical goals for long- or midterm targets should not be the only focus of the Toyako talks.

Instead, it was merely hoped that Japan would inject an air of confidence into the Bali road map, which calls for an accord on the post-Kyoto framework by the end of 2009.

Tokyo Keizai University's Shibata said the wide gap on climate policies among the G8 members lowered the bar for Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda.

"A midterm goal would have been a definite success, but it seemed too much to ask for that," the environment specialist said.

Some suggest that even the G8 delegates held back and opted not to seek a stronger statement from the meeting.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso called the G8 statement on climate change negotiations a "strong signal to citizens around the world" Tuesday, saying that results achieved "the benchmark for success at this summit."

Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy of the nongovernmental organization Union of Concerned Scientists, speculated that the EC "made a calculated political judgment" to commend the lackluster progress.

Europe chose to "live and fight another day in six months" until the United States has a new president in office in January, Meyer said.

He added that strong objections at Toyako would not only have revealed the split between Europe and the U.S. but also embarrassed Fukuda.

Instead, Europe opted to build a coalition that includes Japan and the new president of the U.S. and aim at making an ambitious and fair deal in 2009, Meyer said.

Japan will launch a trial-run of its own emissions trade in the fall and is expected to pledge numerical midterm target goals within 2009.

On the global scale, negotiations for a post-Kyoto protocol will be carried over to the U.N. Conference of Parties in Poland in December.

"A new U.S. president in November should be a reason to raise hopes. Both candidates are different from (George W.) Bush, who has a background in the oil industry," Tokyo Keizai University's Shibata said.



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