NGOs query Merkel's G8 climate 'success'
By Honor Mahony
World leaders yesterday (7 June) managed to stave off accusations of calamity at their G8 summit in Heiligendamm, but their climate change "breakthrough" has been condemned as insufficient.
At the summit, six of the eight countries agreed to "at least halve global carbon dioxide emissions by 2050" and to achieve the goal together "as part of a United Nations process."
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Russia and the US did not sign up to the non-binding pledge by Germany, France, Italy, the UK, Canada and Japan.
As a compromise, however, all eight nations agreed to make substantial - but undefined - emissions cuts.
The eight countries also agreed to launch negotiations on climate change under the United Nations umbrella starting in December 2007 to be wrapped up by 2009.
Acknowledging that the statement is not legally-binding, German chancellor and current G8 host Angela Merkel said she was sure that "no one can escape this declaration."
"We have a great success...a major step forward," said the chancellor.
Green groups say that the declaration by the G8 - representing 13 percent of the world's population and 43 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions - is not enough.
Friends of the Earth said the statement was "weak and lacks substance" while Greenpeace International blamed Washington for the fact that there were no hard targets set.
"The compromise represents a missed opportunity," it said, dismissing it as a "thin sparkle of rhetoric."
For chancellor Merkel however, it represented a face-saving personal coup.
She had faced the uncomfortable prospect of being left entirely out in the cold by the US, which in the run-up to the G8 meeting appeared to suggest a framework other than the UN for negotiating on climate and even then only if China and India - fast growing world economies - were also on board.
Cutting CO2 emissions by at least half by 2050 is what scientists say is necessary to have a realistic shot of keeping the increase in global average temperatures below two degrees centigrade from pre-industrial levels.
Missile defence shield
A major talking point at the summit was Russian leader Vladimir Putin's suggestion to his US counterpart George W. Bush that a former Soviet radar base in Azerbaijan be used to host a new missile defence shield instead of planned sites in Poland and the Czech republic.
The offer, which is to be studied by Washington, could be a potential way to ease the major rift prompted by the US plans for central Europe.
Russia sees itself as a target of the scheme, with recent sabre-rattling from Moscow prompting many analysts to speak of a return to the Cold War.
"This will make it unnecessary for us to place our offensive complexes along the border with Europe," Mr Putin said of the Azerbaijan idea, while Mr Bush described the proposal as "interesting."
Aid for Africa
Today, the final day of the summit, will see leaders discuss aid for African states with the world's richest nations already falling behind on poverty commitments made just two years ago at a G8 summit.
In 2005, they agreed to double development aid by 2010 - but only the UK and the US have the likelihood of achieving this goal.
Germany, as G8 host, upped its contribution ahead of the summit, but according to aid agency Oxfam is still off track to meet the 2005 goal.
In a study at the beginning of the week, the agency said the G8 countries were likely to miss their aid targets by about $30 billion.
Six African leaders will also attend the meeting today.