07 July 2005

Climate change and Africa to top G8 agenda

The campaign against poverty in Africa and the fight against global warming will top the agenda of the Group of Eight (G8) summit in Scotland from Wednesday to Friday.

Leaders of the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Japan, Germany, Italy and Russia will also, British officials say, tackle the Arab-Israeli conflict, the war on terrorism, and the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

It is also likely that the new surge in oil prices will also be discussed.

The following details highlight the key issues on the agenda:

  • British Prime Minister Tony Blair admits it will be "very difficult" to strike a deal on the problem of global warming as the United States, unlike the Europeans, insists there is no rush to take action and that technological developments expected by 2040 would solve the problem.

    The debate centres on how much scientific proof there is for the causes of global warming as well as whether to adhere to Kyoto Protocol targets for cutting carbon emissions blamed for climate change.

    All G8 member countries except the United States have signed the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

  • On aid to Africa, the G8 agreed last month to write off multilateral debt for the 18 poorest countries, most of them in Africa, amounting to $40-billion (about R274-billion), but the measure is judged insufficient by the countries themselves and aid organisations.

    Britain also wants to raise aid from the current $50-billion to $100-billion a year over the next 10 years, a goal which could be met with the promised doubling of European Union aid from $40-billion to $80-billion by 2010, and extra efforts by the United States.

    The third tier of the anti-poverty plan, the removal of protectionist measures by wealthy countries, will not be part of any deal before the meeting of the World Trade Organisation in Hong Kong in December.

  • On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Blair announced on Saturday in Riyadh that he wanted to bring to the G8 an "initiative" to help the Palestinians following the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Gaza Strip.

  • On efforts to block the proliferation of weapons, Britain said it was determined to work during its chairmanship of the G8 on a concerted approach to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons technology. It also stressed its determination to find ways to bolster the convention on biological weapons and to be better prepared to react in case of a biological attack.

  • A treaty on the international sale of weapons was also a key proposal of the Commission for Africa set up by Blair to ease poverty. But the final summit statement will not mention a legally binding treaty and instead settle for "principles," The Times newspaper said.

  • The soaring price of oil appears likely to thrust itself onto the agenda amid concerns about its impact on the global economy. For the first time, the price of oil crossed the symbolic threshold of $60 a barrel and has risen two-fold in two years.

    Oil prices hurt the poorest countries in Africa and South America as well as the wealthy countries.

  • Britain has steadfastly backed the US-led war on terrorism since the September 11, 2001 attacks on US cities and it looms high on the agenda of the summit.

    Source: www.iol.co.za


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