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Jul 9, 2009

G8 2009: "why bother"

This year’s Group of Eight talks in Italy have been unfolding – or unravelling, if you prefer – since yesterday. Crikey intern Sophie Tarr takes a look at what's been happening.

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This year’s Group of Eight talks in Italy have been unfolding — or unravelling, if you prefer — since yesterday, and the verdict so far seems to be a resounding “why bother”. The three-day summit was to be devoted to high-level discussion on the global financial crisis, climate change, Iran, international aid and unrest in China.

Leaders from the G8, comprising Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the US, will also meet with leaders of emerging markets including India and China at the nearby Major Economies Forum.

But most pundits remain sceptical that the discussions will go anywhere fast. Here’s what they’ve had to say so far:

The summit will do nothing to increase aid for those who need it. Officials say that this year’s shindig in L’Aquila will be the most pointless ever — and, believe me, that is saying something … There is talk of a new initiative aimed at increasing food security. On past form, only two things can be certain about this initiative: G8 countries will either not pay up or will take the money from an existing budget. — Larry Elliott, The Guardian

The leaders have claimed a pre-Copenhagen breakthrough in climate change talks… President Obama and other leaders backed historic new targets for tackling global warming last night in an agreement designed to pave the way for a world deal in the autumn. For the first time, America and the other seven richest economies agreed to the goal of keeping the world’s average temperature from rising more than 2C (3.6F). They also agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. — Philip Webster, Times Online

… but they’ll still need to convince developing nations. Leaders of the Group of 8 industrial nations said they would issue a statement committing to the standard later today, pledging to cut overall emissions by 50% by the middle of the century and reducing those of industrialized nations by 80%. But leaders of developing nations balked at the plan, according to sources who were present for the talks but asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak for the group. — Christi Pasons, LA Times

Leaders of the Group of Five major developing countries have reminded the G8 they’ll need a helping financial hand when it comes to tackling climate change. In a joint political statement issued after a summit, the leaders of India, China, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa said that global warming “poses a defining challenge for the present and future generations. Adaptation to climate change is of crucial importance and should be given equal emphasis as mitigation.” – Xinhua

Iran will be given an extension on nuclear negotiations. Group of Eight major powers will give Iran until September to accept negotiations over its nuclear ambitions or else face tougher sanctions, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Wednesday. Upping the stakes in a dispute with Tehran, Sarkozy said the powers would review the situation at a G20 meeting of developed and developing countries in Pittsburgh on September 24 and 25. “If there is no progress by then we will have to take decisions,” said Sarkozy. – Emmanuel Jarry and Jeff Mason, Reuters

And in other sideline G8 stories:

Protesters get n-ked. Environmentalists broke into power stations across Italy and shed their clothes in downtown Rome on Wednesday as world leaders discussed a new deal to combat global warming. Dozens of activists from 18 countries scaled smokestacks and occupied four Italian coal-fired power plants, hanging banners that called on the Group of Eight summit in central Italy to take the lead in fighting climate change, Greenpeace said. — Huffington Post

Hu Jintao a no-show thanks to Xinjiang riots. The cancellation highlights the urgency facing Beijing’s leaders to seek a solution toward the riot which has caused wide international attention. — Wall Street Journal

Silvio Berlusconi’s lust for young women vies with G8 agenda for attention. For weeks, the scandals have been a source of amusement to some Italians, disgust to others. But this week, as Berlusconi prepares to host the Group of 8 summit, there is a hint of queasiness over the image of Italy he projects. “The shame of Italy is before the world,” an elderly man told former senator Tana de Zulueta, one of Berlusconi’s harshest critics, as hundreds of reporters began converging on this sun-baked nation. — Henry Chu, LA Times

First Wives converge, meet Pope. I have the privilege of a second meeting with His Holiness the Pope in Vatican City with the rest of my group (good to see the spouses from Mexico, India and the EU who are all friends from the G20). In February, Gordon took me and our boys to a private audience with the Holy Father where we were touched by his kindness and concern for the developing world. — Sarah Brown, G8 blog

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