Lofty Goals Are Set Aside as G8 Summit Gets Underway | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 06.06.2007
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Lofty Goals Are Set Aside as G8 Summit Gets Underway

G8 leaders kicked off this year's much-anticipated summit at a dinner in a baroque palace, but the beauty of the surroundings was marred by a heavy mood on climate accords and testy Russia-US relations.

They're going home after helping to welcome G8 leaders to Germany

They're going home after helping to welcome G8 leaders to Germany

The G8 leaders sat down to dinner Wednesday evening in the 300-year-old, vaulted Knights' Hall on the Hohen Luckow estate, some 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) south-east of their summit venue in Heiligendamm.

But the decorous evening meal, which heads of state attended with their spouses, was preceded by some contentious back-and-forth on climate control.

US President George W. Bush met German Chancellor Angela Merkel hours before the formal start of the summit. He voiced a "strong desire" to work with G8 nations on a new agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce dependence on foreign oil supplies.

"Some areas need discussion"

Deutschland G8 Angela Merkel und George Bush in Heiligendamm

Merkel and Bush in Heiligendamm on Wednesday

But the US president made no reference to Merkel's push for the developed countries of the G8 to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent of 1990 levels by 2050, and to commit themselves to a global temperature rise of no more than two Celsius degrees this century.

Merkel, who has said she will in no case back off the two-degree limit, diplomatically noted that there were "areas here and there" which needed further discussion.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said he expected no definite agreement to emerge from the summit and repeated his criticism of the US approach.

"I don't expect this summit to establish targets, but I expect there will be recognition of the need to have targets," said Barroso, attending the summit as the head of the EU's executive body.

Barros rues lack of leadership

Deutschland G8 EU Jose Manuel Barroso in Rostock angekommen

Barroso, with wife, called for leadership on the climate issue

He added that the problem was not so much competition between different approaches, "but what is missing is leadership from some of our partners."

Like Merkel, Barroso nevertheless welcomed the initiative on climate change put forward by Bush last month, saying it marked an "evolution" in the US position.

Senior Japanese Foreign Ministry official Koji Tsuruoka said definite goals would not be agreed but that the summit was rather "a golden opportunity to make clear at the level of heads of state and government that this is a problem of the highest priority."

Japan's goals

Japan - Kyoto - Heian Schrein

Japan acknowledged it had not met Kyoto standards

He acknowledged that Japan had failed to measure up to its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol. Japan's greenhouse gas emissions had risen 8 percent, he said, and now the ambitious target was to cut emissions by 14 percent by 2012.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would present a new action plan on climate change soon, Tsuruoka said, adding that Abe's stated aim of cutting emissions by 50 percent by 2050 should be seen rather as a statement of vision rather than as a concrete goal.

Tsuruoka said Japan's aim was to draw all countries into a post-Kyoto agreement, but that defined targets should be avoided as this could scare off some countries.

Setback for Merkel

Merkel's looming failure to secure clear targets at the summit were being seen in Germany as the first major international setback the chancellor has suffered.

In interviews published by the German media during the week leading up to the summit, Merkel firmly committed herself to fixed targets on reducing carbon dioxide emissions and to restricting global warming to two degrees.

The chancellor made clear she would not enter into "murky compromises" and added, "I cannot negotiate on the two degrees."

In the new US initiative, put forward by Bush last month, the emphasis is rather on achieving agreement on curbing greenhouse gas emissions among the world's 15 main polluters, including the rapidly growing emerging economies of India and China.

Bush-Putin conflict

Demonstranten sehen wie Gäste des G8 per Hubschraubern eingeflogen werden

As close as it gets: Demonstrators with helicopters carrying G8 guests in the background

Over the course of the afternoon, Merkel had met with newly elected French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin's conflict with the US over stationing portions of a missile shield in central Europe had caused an uproar in the day or two just before the summit.

On Wednesday, US President Bush toned down his criticism of Putin, saying "Russia is not an enemy."

Protesters, police clash

Putin und Merkel beim Fummeln erwischt

Merkel checked out Putin's G8 badge

Meanwhile, the expected clashes between protesters and police continued to mark the event. Around 10,000 anti-capitalist protesters clashed with police and at one stage blocked all roads to the Baltic resort.

Police turned water cannons on some 2,500 protesters in order to clear one of the roads to Heiligendamm. Police detained some 160 protesters in the skirmishes.

Delegates from several G8 countries, including host Germany, said the protests were limiting their ability to move around at the summit venue.

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