Climate change and food security to dominate G8


LEADERS FROM the G8 group of leading economies meet in Italy tomorrow to try to agree a common approach for tackling climate change and food security.

They will also discuss the global economic crisis amid concerns that rising debt levels in many developed countries pose a risk to economic recovery.

“We go to L’Aquila with a number of key objectives. We will insist on the need to respect the two-degrees-Celsius target,” said European Commission president José Manuel Barroso yesterday laying out the union’s priorities for the summit.

He also welcomed a proposal tabled by the US and Japan for a new “food security initiative”, which would represent a shift away from providing direct food aid to those suffering hunger towards more sustainable long-term investments in farming.

The G8 summit in L’Aquila, Italy, forms the centerpiece of three days of meetings between more than 30 world leaders. The leaders of developing countries China, Brazil, India, Mexico, South Africa and Egypt will join the summit on Wednesday with several African leaders attending on Thursday.

The EU is pushing G8 members US, Japan, Russia and Canada to lay the groundwork for agreeing a deal later this year at an UN summit in Copenhagen for steep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

It wants them to sign up to a communiqué committed to setting a target of restricting global warming below two degrees. Scientists warn that the process of climate change could become irreversible with potentially devastating consequences for the world’s food supplies if this limit is breached.

“Developed countries have a special responsibility to take the lead. But this is not going to be enough . . . The emerging economies, for example, where growth in emissions is surging, must also join in the effort,” said Mr Barroso.

The EU wants developed states to agree to 80 per cent cuts in emissions by 2050 to help achieve this target. It is asking developing economies such as China and India – who will attend a Major Economies Forum (MEF) on the sidelines of the summit – to agree to back a global goal for a 50 per cent cut in global emissions by 2050.

Diplomats say there had been a significant shift in the G8 because of US President Barack Obama’s commitment to address climate change. But they say that a lot of tricky issues remain to be solved. For example, states are divided on the base year for measuring emissions cuts. There is also no agreement yet on the amount of money that developed states should give to developing countries to assist them in cutting emissions and coping with the effects of climate change.

It is expected that Mr Obama, who will chair the MEF discussion on climate change, will sign the US up to the target to limit temperature rises to two degrees.

The G8 states are also expected to sign up to a new food security initiative, which aims to replace food aid with more sustainable aid to farmers in the developing world. The Financial Times reported yesterday that the G8 would set up an $12 billion fund to disburse over three years to reverse “the tendency of decreasing official development aid and national financing to agriculture”. The US and Japan are likely to supply $6-8 billion and the EU and Canada the rest.

The initiative may dampen criticism aimed at G8 states for failing to live up to commitments they made in Scotland in 2005 to halve world poverty and hunger by 2015. Since this announcement it is estimated a further 150 million people live in hunger, bringing the global total to more than one billion, says Tom Arnold chief executive of Concern. He said he welcomed the announcement, which mirrored many of the recommendations in the Hunger Task Force report commissioned by the Government.

The food security initiative represents a major shift in US policy. It is the world’s biggest food aid donor disbursing $2 billion per year to poor countries, much of which was provided by US farmers – a powerful lobby in Washington.