07/02/2008, 00.00
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World is waiting for real G8 effort against global warming

by Pino Cazzaniga
The obstacle to a successful conclusion of the summit to be held on the 7th and 8th is not so much the presentation of different proposals as the division between China and the United States. Fukuda will present mediation projects.

Tokyo (AsiaNews) - From July 7-8, the annual summit of the G8 (Canada, France, Germany, Japan, England, Italy, Russia, the United States) will be held in Japan, near Lake Toyako (Hakkaido).  A representative of the European Union will also participate, and, at the invitation of Japan, the presidents of China, India, and South Korea.  The summit will be of special significance because its main theme will be global warming, the solution of which, at least in part, cannot be put off.

Host country Japan, under the direction of prime minister Yasuo Fukuda, has prepared carefully for the meeting.  At the beginning of June, it organised at Aomori (northeast Japan) a conference of G8 energy ministers, as well as those of three Asian nations, responsible for 65% of carbon dioxide emissions: China, India, and South Korea.  At the direction of Japan, they agreed to establish the IPEEC (International Partnership for Energy Efficiency Cooperation), a forum to promote international cooperation for efficient energy use.  One week later, it was the turn of the G8 finance ministers, gathered to discuss financial contributions to be dedicated to initiatives to resolve the problem of climate change. "Japan's efforts alone will not resolve the problem of global warming", said Fukuda at a press conference. "The international community must work together on these problems".  On the initiative of the United States and Great Britain, which have respectively provided 2 billion dollars and 800 million pounds, it was decided to establish the Climate Investment Fund, which will be managed by the World Bank.  Japan immediately joined the initiative, contributing 1.2 billion dollars.

These diplomatic initiatives, together with intense research efforts, reveal the outlines of the upcoming G8 summit, which we summarise in three points.

First, global warming is the main and almost the only theme to be addressed at the summit. German chancellor Angela Merkel had indicated this in her address at the conclusion of last year's summit in Heiligendamn. Nonetheless, it seems to many that the serious problem of the rise in the prices of oil and grains should be given first priority. But the editorialist for the newspaper Asahi is not of this opinion. If efforts are diverted from the concrete and immediate commitment to stop global warming, he writes, the risk is that no conclusions will be reached, and the situation of world hunger will worsen.  Already in Africa, large portions of farmland are turning into sandy desert.

The second point concerns the provisions to be taken to arrest the phenomenon.  The means is evident: to diminish the quantity of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere from fuel combustion.  The Kyoto protocol formulated by the United Nations in 1997 and ratified by 36 countries and by the European Union was aimed at this goal, but will expire in 2012.  How can it be replaced? The members of the G8 are coming to the summit in Toyako without a shared viewpoint on this matter.  Japan wants to cut greenhouse gases 50% by 2050, but the European Union, without rejecting this proposal, wants to set a more modest goal while fixing the date at 2020.  The two proposals are not opposed, if one considers 2020 as the medium term of a single process.

But the real sticking point is the disagreement between the United States and China.  The United States did not ratify the Kyoto protocol, because it wanted - and still wants - the involvement of China, which now seems to hold first place in atmospheric pollution.  A study by the International Energy Agency shows that China emits four times the amount of carbon dioxide as Japan.  In 2007, it surpassed the United States. Hu Jintao's administration is trying to resolve the problem with domestic regulations and controls, but is refusing to accept obligations at the international level.

To the objections of the Bush administration, Beijing responds that on a per capita basis, China's greenhouse gas emissions are lower than those of any of the rich countries.  Nonetheless, the fact that China is present at the G8 summit is positive, because Japan can mediate between the two giants.  Fukuda, in fact, will not present only the proposal of "50% by 2050", but also corollary viewpoints that already have already obtained international consensus.  The one that is garnering the most widespread agreement is the so-called "sectoral approach": this means the efficient and clean use of energy as a criterion of evaluation for individual factories or areas.  In this manner, responsibility passes from the top to the grassroots.  The technical expertise is not exercised by government ministries.

China, now, not only accepts but is waiting for technical and financial support from Japan to resolve the problem of pollution.

It is now to be hoped that the leaders of the G8 may issue a strong and concrete joint declaration.

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