Outlook Is Bleak for Big Strides on Climate Issues | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 06.06.2007
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Outlook Is Bleak for Big Strides on Climate Issues

Germany's agenda for the G8 summit ranges from Africa and trade to hedge funds, relations with Russia, the Middle East and Kosovo. But it is the climate that is getting the most heat.

Climate change is causing divisions

Climate change is causing divisions

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has made climate change and the challenges to combat it a key issue at the Group of Eight summit she is hosting at the Baltic coastal resort of Heiligendamm in Germany.

Observers are saying a substantial outcome is unlikely, however. And in recent statements, Merkel has tried to put the stress on at least getting the G8 countries to agree to keep at least agreeing to keep talks on climate change within a United Nations framework .

"In Heiligendamm we want to give impetus to the negotiations on global climate protection," the chancellor said.

"I hope there will be a signal from Heiligendamm that the countries represented there clearly recognize their collective responsibility," she said.

With the world leaders from industrialized nations attending the meeting, some consensus about how to tackle the climate change problem could be possible.

No fixed targets likely

Die CDU-Vorsitzende und designierte Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel laechlt am 12. November 2005 in Berlin

Merkel has set climate high on the agenda

But German press agency dpa reported Wednesday morning that the United States and Germany had apparently failed to agree on fixed targets in the fight against global warming in talks ahead of the summit.

And US President George W. Bush's chief environment adviser, James Connaughton, has said the summit would end without an agreement on fixed targets.

Connaughton said each country had to set its own targets. This was not only Washington's view but also that of, for instance, Japan and Canada, he said. It would take more time until all leading industrialized nations could agree on a joint vision.

However, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Wednesday he believes he can persuade Bush to agree for the first time to a global target for a "substantial cut" in greenhouse gas emissions.

In an interview with the Guardian newspaper Wednesday, Blair said that America was "on the move" in its position on climate change.

Last-ditch effort

Symbolbild Klima Erde und George Bush

President Bush has not endorsed the Kyoto Protocol to limit emissions

Chancellor Merkel was to hold a pre-summit lunch meeting with Bush on Wednesday in a bid to find common ground on climate change.

The summit officially begins with a formal dinner later in the evening.

Last week, the chancellor had welcomed Bush's call for a new strategy on tackling global warming through joint action by the world's top polluters -- including China and India -- as a "positive" step.

But Merkel has also made clear that she will still press G8 leaders to commit to cutting global greenhouse gas emissions to 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 in order to ensure that the world's average temperature increase due to global warming does not exceed two degrees Celsius (3.6 degree Fahrenheit).

Support from other nations

Germany's plan for a binding pact has won qualified support from some nations, but Bush last week unveiled his own proposals and said a long-term goal for reducing greenhouses gases could be set by the end of 2008.

Merkel wants the G8 to guide other nations towards negotiations due to take place in December to find a successor to the Kyoto Protocol.

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol, named after Japan's ancient capital, where it was signed, is the world's first treaty mandating emission cuts and will expire in 2012.

On Tuesday, the European Union -- represented by Merkel as the current EU president -- and Japan agreed to take the lead in forging a successor to Kyoto. They jointly proposed to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Deutschland G8 Großdemonstration in Rostock Polizei und Demonstranten

Police and protestors clashed before the summit

"The EU and Japan are committed to take strong leadership towards the development of a fair, flexible, effective and comprehensive UN post-2012 framework that ensures the participation of all major emitting countries," a joint statement said after the Tuesday meeting.

Developing countries' role

While the EU and Japan insisted that developed countries should play a vital role in fighting global warming, they also called for a "fair contribution" by developing countries.

"We have to take action under a UN framework so that all members of the international community can participate bindingly," Merkel said after talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Berlin Tuesday.

Merkel has also repeatedly said that talks on climate change must be within a United Nations framework. Earlier in the week, Merkel made a statment to that effect, together with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

President Bush will also meet Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe before the summit begins.

Russia also in limelight

G8 members include Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Japan, the United States, Canada and Russia. The European Commission is also represented at all meetings.

Deutschland G8 Sicherheitszaun in Heiligendamm

Massive security fence around the summit location

Chinese President Hu Jintao and counterparts from five emerging economies -- Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa -- will
participate in the summit, highlighting their growing weight in
international affairs.

Other non-G8 members at the meeting include the leaders of Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal.

Another issue likely to take center-stage at the summit is the West's relations with Russia, with Russian President Vladimir Putin attending the meeting.

Both Chancellor Merkel and US President Bush are set to hold bilateral talks with Putin in a bid to defuse rising East-West tensions.

The leaders are striving to strike a conciliatory tone in relations with Russia despite Putin's most recent angry attack against US plans to station elements of an anti-missile defence system in Poland and the Czech Republic.

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