Monday, July 7, 2008

Update1 :G8 Summit 2008

G8 summit opens with soaring prices, Africa aid as focus
Leaders of the world's richest nations opened a summit on Monday, aimed at battling skyrocketing oil and food prices, as pressure mounted on them to live up to their pledges to help Africa.Leaders including US President George W Bush gathered in the secluded spa resort of Toyako in northern Japan for a three-day session, with seven African leaders joining them on the first day to take up the plight of the continent.Riot police with shields stood under pouring rain and blocked some 50 protesters, who had camped out in the meadowlands from getting anywhere near the plush hotel where the world's top leaders were meeting.The closest that demonstrators got was the other side of sapphire-blue Lake Toya, where they shouted slogans in the improbable hope that leaders on the hilltop on the other side would hear them.European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso set the tone for the meeting by proposing the creation of a one-billion-euro EU fund to fight hunger and help farmers in poor countries with seeds and fertiliser.Inflationary concernsFood prices have nearly doubled in three years and set off riots in parts of the developing world, which are also being hit hard by record oil prices.In the closed-door session, African leaders pushed for the Group of Eight nations to make good on aid promises, saying the continent was bearing the brunt of rising food prices, a Japanese official who was present said."Because of the recent surge in food prices, African agriculture's supply and demand is not balanced and we would like the G8 to fully support" our cause," the official quoted African delegates as telling G8 leaders.Pope Benedict XVI also called on G8 leaders to focus on the world's weakest and poorest people, as they are "more vulnerable now because of speculation and financial turbulence and their perverse effects on the prices of food and energy."But aid groups said that some of the G8 nations - Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States - were walking away from earlier commitments.The club of rich nations promised in 2005 in Britain to boost aid to Africa by a further $25 billion by 2010. But UN and African Union figures indicate that only less than a quarter of that amount has been forthcoming.The Oxfam charity said that Canada in particular was working to water down aid pledges, with their position backed by France and Italy. "We can't let them step away from their promises," Oxfam activist Max Lawson said. "For rich countries this is peanuts. For African countries this is life or death."The G8 was joined for Monday's so-called outreach session on Africa by the leaders of Algeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania.The G8 leaders were expected to focus at their main session Tuesday on soaring oil prices, which have imperilled global economic growth by stoking inflation, prompting warnings by aid groups not to forget Africa.In Mali, hundreds of activists from around the world gathered in the dusty town of Katibougou for a poor people's summit organised to counterbalance the G8.G8 leaders also pushed for action on Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe secured a sixth term last month in a widely condemned election in which his only rival dropped out faced with violence."I care deeply about the people of Zimbabwe. I am extremely disappointed in the election, which I labelled a sham election," Bush said after meeting with Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, the head of the African Union.UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he would also hold talks with African leaders on the Zimbabwe crisis and press for movement in the fight against climate change."I hope the US ultimately should take (on) this leadership role. This is what the whole international community expects of the United States," Ban told AFP in an interview.The United States is the only major industrial nation to shun the Kyoto Protocol, as it pushes for more commitment from developing nations. Last year's G8 summit agreed that the leaders would "consider seriously" at least halving carbon emissions by 2050.
G8 must do more for food security: ActionAid
As the G8 summit starts in Japan, international NGO ActionAid has appealed to leaders of the world's eight richest countries to take urgent steps to end the current global food crisis."The ranks of the hungry have swelled to over 950 million in 2008, and ActionAid estimates that a further 750 million are now at risk of falling into chronic hunger," the NGO said in a statement on Monday. "As many as 1.7 billion people, or 25 percent of the world's population, may now lack basic food security," the statement added."G8 leaders can, and must take bold steps in Hokkaido to prevent world hunger spiralling further out of control," the NGO said, demanding an immediate revocation on subsidies to biofuels production."ActionAid's analysis shows that on current trends, 290 million people are hungry or at risk of chronic hunger because of the biofuels juggernaut," the NGO said."The US should immediately remove all subsidies for corn ethanol production and revoke the targets for increased use of biofuels that are driving the current increase in corn and other biofuels feedstock prices," Action Aid said."G8 leaders should support a five-year moratorium on the diversion of arable land into biofuel mono cropping. Instead of subsidizing biofuels the G8 countries should increase research, investment and incentives to scale up alternative renewable energy sources," the statement said.ActionAid alleged, "The G8 countries' failure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is already wreaking havoc on agriculture through severe floods and droughts and rising temperatures. Weather effects have already reduced harvests in some countries. In some countries in Africa, yields from rain-fed agriculture could drop by as much as 50 per cent by 2020 because of climate change.""It will cost developing countries an estimated $67 million a year to tackle these and other risks, but so far, G8 pledges to the two voluntary climate change adaptation funds amount to only $158 million, less than a tenth of what Europeans spend annually on sunscreen," the statement added.The NGO called upon the G8 leaders to "confine future increases in global temperatures to less than two degrees Celsius by agreeing binding and time bound targets to reduce their own emission levels by at least 25-40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020"."The US as the single largest polluter, must commit to reduce its emissions by at least 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, and provide at least $55 billion of the estimated $67 billion annual cost of helping developing countries cope with climate change," the NGO’s statement said.Based on historic responsibility and capacity to pay, ActionAid has also demanded, "The G8 must commit to assist developing countries in accessing clean technology. Clean technology funding must be additional to overseas development assistance; should give preference to grants that provide incentives for developing countries to embrace a clean development path; and should give preference to small, locally controlled and managed projects that provide local energy access, particularly directed at women."
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