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8 Jul, 2009 22:06

“Yes we camp!”

G8 leaders have gathered in Italy for their summit – but will it really tackle issues of global concern, and will their solutions be possible to implement?

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

The United States and other G8 leaders agreed to the goal of a temperature threshold after failing to press developing countries to approve a more far-reaching goal of reducing heat-trapping carbon emissions by 2050.

The text of the declaration vows to reduce global carbon emissions by 50% by 2050. In addition, economically developed countries have agreed to cut theirs by 80% by the same date.

Climate change experts say that the acknowledgment from both the G8 and a 17-member group of developing nations was an important step since it now implies that countries actually have to do something to prevent temperatures from increasing.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called it a “historic agreement'” and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said it was “a clear step forward.”

The primary items on the agenda are tackling the global financial crisis and international security.

Economic freezing versus global warming

Russia positions itself among those interested in participating in such globally important decisions. As a member of the G8, Russia has also signed the agreement on controlling climate change.

However, according to Russian presidential aide Arkady Dvorkovich, Russia will not consider weakening its economy by cutting its gas emissions by 80%.

During the ongoing global credit crunch, struggling economies’ need for direct help perhaps outweighs the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, he said. But Dvorkovich also noted that various ways of helping the global economy out of its current downturn and stabilizing global funds are matters now being discussed by G8 leaders.

“The biggest part of the discussion was dedicated to the global economy and figuring out whether it is the right time to abandon the anti-crisis programs and stimulus policies,” said the Russian presidential aide. “Mostly everyone thinks it’s too early to abandon them, but now is the right time to think when to do it and how to do it.”

“Some leaders suggested we discuss how to provide long-term and short-term macro economic stability when we meet in September in Pittsburgh,” he added.

Speaking of the role of the G8 in fighting the global economic crisis, John Kirton, the director of the G8 Research Group at the University of Toronto, said:

“If you look at the G20 at the finance ministers level… it’s guided by the G8, it’s still controlled by the G8. If the G8 doesn’t provide leadership within the G20, no one else will.”

“Last fall, it was the G7 finance ministers that set the principles that guide what the G20 does to this day. And it was the G8 leaders themselves last autumn that said we must confront the crisis as leaders within a larger group,” Kirton added.

China unrest forces Hu out of G8

The Chinese President Hu Jintao has cut short his visit to Italy and will miss the G8 Summit because of unrest back home.

Security forces have moved into the western city of Urumqi in the Xinjiang province to try to quell the ethnic clashes.

Violence erupted between Han Chinese and the minority Muslim Uyghurs on Sunday. At least 156 people were killed.

It has been described as the “deadliest riot since modern-day China was founded in 1949.” Up to one and a half thousand people have been arrested over the violence.

The authorities have blamed the separatist World Uyghur Congress for stirring up tensions, but Uyghurs say the unrest was initially triggered by an ethnic brawl in a southern Chinese city two weeks ago.

“Chinese President Hu Jintao not only cancelled his visit to Portugal, he had to leave the G8 summit which China sees as a very important gathering,” Igor Denisov, the China expert from “The Voice of Russia”.

“These riots could have been started deliberately to co-incide with the summit in order to distract media attention from China's role in tackling the global crisis and to put pressure on Beijing,” he added.

Giulietto Chiesa, an Italian Socialist and former member of the European Parliament, says that the G8 has not so much power now to decide on big issues, especially financial issues, without China and without the G20, which is the real center of power.

"I believe that this discussion will be very preliminary and not conclusive,” he told RT.


Anti-globalization protests have been held in Rome, some 200 km away from L’Aquila. But security measures are incredibly tight around the area.

Several arrests have been made so far.

At the heart of disaster

As the host of this year’s event, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is going all out to prove that it can, and that he is the one who can make it happen.

“The main theme of the next G8 will be ‘people first,’ which means that during a crisis, first of all you need to think about people,” Berlusconi said.

Thinking about his own people, Silvio Berlusconi moved the summit from La Maddalena, an island off the coast of Sardinia, to L'Aquila.

A pretty historic town on the mainland, L'Aquila was recently destroyed by an earthquake. Hundreds of people died, and tens of thousands were left homeless.

The summit was aimed at drawing attention and soliciting help from the international community, in the hopes of helping the city recover faster.

"After the summit, some of the apartments that have been improved for the hospitality will be used by the homeless people, those who will wait until the end of the year in order to have the new houses," said Guido Bertolaso, a G8 organizer.

But months after the earthquake, the tent camps are still up.

Collemaggio is the first – and, its residents say, best appointed – camp for the homeless in the region. Managed by the Red Cross, it is one of about 300 similar such sites.

“We have 307 people living here since the quake of April 6,” said a Red Cross representative.

They have a school, a church and a library onsite, but hand-drawn street signs are not comparable with a solid roof over one's head.

That is why many are not happy with the G8 leaders gathering in L'Aquila. It seems the summit is only drawing away attention and financing from the city's problems.

“We have not seen any work done to restore the city. These three months, we only see money spent for the G8 preparations,” Nicola from the Committee 3e32 told RT.

Still, many hope that Mr. Berlusconi’s plan will pay off, and that the effect of the international attention will be felt after the G8 leaders depart.

“They started bringing observers along because there was this growing perception it was ‘a white men’s club from the North’, but there is Obama now. But still, it is a Northern-driven organization making decisions for the entire world. So, bringing other observers along was very politically correct.”