G8 Summit has Climate Change, Development Aid on Agenda

Today, Wednesday, 8 July 2009, world leaders of G8 will gather in Italy for the 35th summit hosted by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The development of Africa and Climate Change is a key part of the G8 summit agenda. President Obama is expected to reveal a major initiative to boost agricultural development and prevent hunger in Africa, worth perhaps $3bn (£1.8bn) to $5bn, at the summit.

In a report, the charity ActionAid says that a billion people are still hungry in the world today, and that despite the drop in food prices it is still a key issue for many developing countries. The report also says that the percentage of foreign aid spent on agriculture has “been in freefall” in the last 25 years and the remainder is “poorly targeted and coordinated”.

It cites calculations from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, based in Rome, which suggests that another $30bn in additional investment will be needed to get smallholder agriculture working again on a sustainable basis.

ActionAid says that only $5bn of the $10bn pledged at the last G8 summit for the food crisis has been disbursed, and warns that it could worsen in the next two years, as the financial crisis pushes another 200 million people into poverty. Italy has come under particular fire from anti-poverty campaign group One, set up by the artist and campaigner Bono for missing its aid targets.

The global response to the financial crisis will also form a key part of the G8 deliberations, although many key decisions may be postponed until the next G20 summit in Pittsburgh in the US in September. The US is also likely to renew its call for more fiscal stimulus by Europe, particularly in 2010, when the recession may be deeper in the EU than in the US.

China – which will attend the meeting as an observer – is also expected to renew its call for an international currency to replace the dollar’s dominance in world markets. Another major topic on the summit agenda is climate change, ahead of the key meeting at Copenhagen in December which will decide on what sort of climate change treaty will replace the Kyoto agreement which expires in 2012.

A key object of the negotiations is to bring on board both the US and the major emerging market countries China and India into any new agreement. The Obama administration has taken a very different line from its predecessor and is now actively engaged in the negotiations, although its climate change bill was watered down in Congress and now only has a modest 17% target for reduced emissions by 2020.

Gordon Brown has proposed that the world should provide a $60bn fund to help developing countries adopt green technology, although campaigners suggest the fund should be at least $150bn to have a chance of convincing them to join the new treaty.

With a number of developing countries attending the summit, it will be a chance for some informal negotiations on this issue, where the US and developing countries still appear to be deadlocked. The G8 countries are the US, the UK, Germany, Japan, Italy, France, Canada and Russia. With no headquarters, budget or permanent staff, the Group of Eight is an informal but exclusive body whose members set out to tackle global challenges through discussion and action. (BBC)

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