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G8 Must Take the Lead on Climate Change, Expert Says

Bernd Pfaffenbach, German Chancellor Merkel's point man for next week's G8 summit, spoke with DW about the pressing issues on the agenda as the world's leading industrialized powers meet in Japan.

Desert

Climate change will likely dominate the G8 summit

There will be plenty of topics on the agenda at the G8 summit in Japan. Which issues do you think stand out?

Bernd Pfaffenbach: G8 summits are always marked by a large variety of topics. The skill lies in structuring the topics in such a way that they are easy to manage. But I think climate change will be a huge issue at this year's summit. We Germans are satisfied with the agenda because it strongly reflects, draws upon and continues with our program from last year's G8 summit in Heiligendamm, Germany.

You said climate change was a big topic at last year's summit. However the Japanese hosts have played down expectations this year. Do you think the summit declaration will fall far short of the goals issued by last year's G8 summit?

Bernd Pfaffenbach

Bernd Pfaffenbach says the G8 needs to show leadership

I don't think so; we wouldn't like that at all. I don't think the Japanese can afford to rein in their ambitions so much as to create a setback compared to last year's summit. Of course, talks will be difficult. But I think we've prepared ourselves quite well. In the end, it will all depend on the deftness of the G8 heads of state and government leaders to draw the emerging economies into the process.

Our position is that the G8 must show a certain leadership on this issue. That means respecting what we agreed on at last year's summit in Germany -- that there's a common yet differentiated reasonability of the whole world and that we as the world's leading industrialized nations must do more than the developing nations in the short and mid-term.

Another big issue will be soaring oil prices. That was the case at the G8 summit in 2004. At the time, the summit agreed on a transparency initiative pushed by the Germans. But not much has happened since. Apparently the G8 can't halt runaway oil prices?

It's always difficult to change the oil price with the push of a button. It's in no one's interest -- not even in the oil producing nations' -- that the industrialized countries are brought to their knees and that their wealth is exhausted. That's why it's good if their own money, their oil revenues, are once again invested back in our countries and that the economy functions smoothly again and common interests come together again.

The G8 can't put the brakes on spiraling food prices either. That's a new topic on the agenda. The G8 isn't as affected by this crisis; it has hit the poor harder. What kind of message can the G8 deliver here?

People buying rice in Dhaka, Bangladesh

Skyrocketing prices of food have led to riots around the world

In the short term, it's important to give money to the poorest. Germany has earmarked over half a billion this year for food aid. But in the end, structural causes for the crisis need to be tackled.

It's especially important to reduce the dependence of developing nations on deliveries from the industrialized world. That can only happen if rural structures are strengthened in the developing world. We want to do all this and we have concrete plans for it in the final declaration of the summit.

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