G-8 summit disappoints many, but not Berlusconi
Italy's leader deemed the event a logistical 'miracle' after a last-minute change of venue. But critics decried lack of concrete progress on climate change, Iran, and trade.
As the Group of Eight summit wrapped up Friday, the assessment of what it had achieved was rather less bright than the sun shining on the rugged peaks overlooking this Italian mountain city.Skip to next paragraph
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The three-day gathering brought together the leaders of nearly 40 nations, together with 3,500 journalists, with security provided by a small army: 15,000 Italian police and soldiers, backed up by helicopters and even unmanned aerial drones.
The summit tackled an ambitious range of global issues, from world trade and hunger to regional conflicts like Afghanistan. But as world leaders left the drab police barracks that have been their home since Wednesday, there was concern that despite Italy's colossal organizational efforts, the event had failed to produce much of substance.
The G-8 countries had squandered "an historic opportunity" to commit to midterm cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, said Greenpeace, as activists in inflatable boats painted the words "G-8: Failed" on the side of a coal ship in the port of Civitavecchia, near Rome.
The G-8 nations – US, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Russia – committed to reducing their carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050 but foundered in their attempts to bring major developing economies such as China and India on board with climate change initiatives. The only thing developed and developing nations could agree on was that the world must not be allowed to warm more than two degrees Celsius (3.5 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.
But climate experts and environmental groups said that even a two-degree rise in Celsius temperatures would wreak havoc on agriculture, ecosystems, and ice caps. The lack of progress earned an unusually robust rebuke from the UN's Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon.
"The policies that they have stated so far are not enough, not sufficient enough," he said. "We must work according to the science. This is politically and morally imperative."
The failure to find common ground underlined the huge challenge which looms ahead as the world tries to build a new climate change treaty at a meeting in Copenhagen in December. The new agreement would replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.
"A massive opportunity to show leadership and ambition has been missed here," says Paul Cook, director of Tearfund, a Christian relief and development agency based in Britain. "Ambitious goals for 2020 emissions targets have sunk without trace and the financial bone of contention still remains."