G8 summit: cooling down the planet

On day two of the G8 summit, global warming has taken center stage. The eight richest nations scratch their heads as to where the money’s gone this past year, and developing countries line up to ask for their share.

The G8 summit in L’Aquila, Italy, which has entered its third day on Friday, has been joined by the “Group of Five” – the leaders of China, India, Brazil, the Republic of South Africa and Mexico – and Egypt as well.

On Thursday G8 summit leaders have unanimously approved the US-Russia arms reduction deal due to be signed by the year’s end, said Russia’s foreign ministry.

Meanwhile, Oxfam International has declared climate change as the number one threat to humanity, so the issue is very much pressing on the world leaders now, possibly more than ever. According to several NGOs and activists, there are fears that, due to the severity of the financial crisis, the fight against climate change could potentially be put on the backburner.

The group has already decided in a significant acknowledgement on Wednesday that the average global temperature should not increase by more than 2 degrees Celsius.

Concerns have been voiced over how relevant the G8 is in contemporary society. However, a spokesperson for the Russian President has answered the claims:

“Of course there are questions about how the G8 could be more efficient to achieve common goals. Last night’s discussions of the world leaders about pressing issues has shown that the G8 is still effective. But of course some issues, such as global warming are impossible to discuss without developing countries like China and Brazil. So, the G8 will undergo some changes which are being discussed at this summit,” Dmintry Medvedev’s spokesperson, Natalya Timakova, told RT.

Matters of finance

The leaders agreed on Thursday not to use currency devaluation to gain competitive advantages by making their exports cheaper, AP reports.

“We will refrain from competitive devaluations of our currencies and promote a stable and well functioning international monetary system,” the leaders said in a draft joint declaration called "Promoting the Global Agenda."

Some policymakers have voiced concern about countries allowing their currencies to drop in the hope that cheaper exports would help limit the impact of the recession.

For example, Christine Lagarde, France's finance minister, was vocal this year about Britain gaining an advantage by letting the pound fall sharply against the euro.

Although the dollar was not mentioned in the draft declaration, its future as the world's reserve currency is likely to remain a topic for debate over the coming months, as China, Russia and India have expressed their desire to see long-term changes in the international monetary system.

But they have been careful to not push their desire for change too far, in case the dollar slumps and the value of their large dollar-denominated investments plummets.

The world food crisis

G8 countries may make serious commitments to increase food aid to developing countries.

Aleksandr Pankin, a representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, noted that the decision might be made on Friday. According to him, the summit is not planning to make any other financially-heavy decisions.

He pointed out that during the group’s discussion of the food crisis, it was highlighted that more than $12 billion in resources for the poorest countries has already mobilized.

“It is difficult for these countries to cope with the world financial crisis with their own resources and they definitely need support,” he told RT in an exclusive interview.

“They need support from financial institutions, they need support for targeted problems in various areas: housing, medication and, of course, food,” he added.

Watch full interview with Aleksandr Pankin


Southern Kurils standoff

AFP Photo / Alexander Nemenov
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev met with Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso on the sidelines of the G8 summit. The two countries have an ongoing territorial dispute concerning the southern Kuril Islands in Russia’s Far East.

Kazuo Kodama, a spokesman from the Japanese foreign ministry told RT that the discussion between the two top officials was very candid and open. According to him, the president and the prime minister have expressed an eager desire to work together, especially in terms of security and North Korea.

There was progress made in the long-running territorial dispute and the two sides agreed to work further.

“We share a view that in order to truly elevate Japanese-Russian strategic partnership relations onto a higher dimension it is very unnatural that we are unable to resolve this long-lasting issue of the Northern Territories,” commented Kazuo Kodama.

However, Medvedev condemned a bill adopted by Japan’s parliament, which officially recognizes the Islands as part of its “historical territory”. The Russian President stressed the move was not a foundation for sincere dialogue.

Russian Independent analyst Vladimir Kozin says the Kuril Islands are of great value to Japan:

“They would like to reconsider international law and international treaties. They would like to get these islands because of huge energy resources. They could be used for agricultural resources, for fishing. It is also a strategic area for Russian nuclear powered submarines,” he explained.

Nuclear worries: G8 on Iran and North Korea

The G8 has once again unanimously confirmed that they will strive for a comprehensive, peaceful, and diplomatic settlement of the Iranian nuclear issue.

In addition, the eight leaders have denounced the nuclear tests staged by North Korea in May and its subsequent series of missile launches. The final statement on non-proliferation, adopted at the summit, calls on the country to return to the Six-Party Talks immediately and without any preliminary conditions.

The world leaders’ concern over the fact that terrorists may get their hands on weapons of mass destruction has also been mentioned in the document signed. The G8 stated they are waiting for the examination of an initiative put forth earlier by US President Barack Obama, which is aimed at ensuring the security of all vulnerable nuclear materials in the world.

The G8 summit has unanimously welcomed the Russia-US agreement to sign a new nuclear arms reduction treaty by the end of 2009.

Meanwhile, a summit on global nuclear security is planned to be held in Washington, March 2010, Obama said.

Tackling both the financial crisis and the global warming simultaneously is doable and would be looking to the future instead of the past, as old solutions aren’t working, says RT’s political commentator Peter Lavelle.