G8 growing bigger?

The G8 summit that came to an end on Thursday has brought new prospects for major reforms in the world’s most influential political institutions.

Expectations for this year’s G8 were as shaky as the Italian terrain where the annual summit was held. Host Silvio Berlusconi made a last-minute venue change, bringing the summit to the devastated city of L’Aquila that was hit by a major earthquake in April.

The makeshift arrangements for the summit affected everyone from the locals and the press to the presidents: Dmitry Medvedev and Nicolas Sarkozy shared a house.

Many leaders took tours of the ruins in L’Aquila before sitting down for three days of debate and discussion.

The group pledged to work together further in the fight against climate change, agreeing on global cuts to greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2050. China has refused to agree to the target.

Experts say that the emissions cuts may lead to a more secure future for the signatory countries.

“This climate change provides a great opportunity because energy efficiency is one of the major answers to climate change and energy efficiency also means not using oil, not using gas,” said Nobuo Tanaka, executive director of the International Energy Agency. “Achieving this provides great opportunity for energy consuming countries to enhance security.”

It was the global economic crisis, however, that took central stage. The consensus among G8 leaders was that surviving the crunch is only possible by working together. The world leaders agreed that an end to the crisis is not in sight, and cannot be resolved only within the G8 format.

The G8 leaders did meet with the heads of the five major emerging economies, including India and China, in a grouping known as the G8+5. Due to problems at home, Chinese leader Hu Jintao missed the main part of the summit.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy hinted that by the time the summit rotates to France in two years, the G8 may no longer be just eight members.

“Evidently, the ability of G8 to represent the world in order to address such important issues as climate change and world government is not sufficient,” said the French leader. “There is G8, there is G5. Together with President Lula we have proposed as soon as possible to merge the two groups to achieve 14 with Egypt because we feel it is not reasonable to contemplate discussing major international issues without Africa, Latin America, China or India.”

Host Silvio Berlusconi suggested having another summit this year, adding to a planned G20 meeting in the autumn.

Thus, despite this year’s declarations and praise for progress made, there seems to be a feeling in the air that this could be one of the last G8 summits. The world’s most pressing issues now have become the work of the G20 or maybe even the G14, as suggested by the French president.

“The more the merrier” must be the motto if the global group wants to really represent the world and get things done.