Prospects of the G8 reaching a meaningful agreement on how best to fight global warming dimmed as leaders, with a long list of global problems, began gathering in northern Japan for their annual summit.
Climate change is high on the agenda of the July 7-9 summit of the Group of Eight industrialized nations at a luxury hotel in Toyako, Hokkaido, and of a major economies meeting on Wednesday that will bring the group together with eight developing countries, including China, India and Brazil.
Global inflation driven by soaring food and fuel prices and African poverty, too, will be discussed, as will be issues as wide-ranging as Zimbabwe's election crisis and the defusing of the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula.
The G8 comprises the US, the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and Canada.
Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, who reached Hokkaido needing a successful summit to bolster limp ratings at home, wants to add momentum for UN-led talks on a new framework beyond limits agreed under the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.
Those negotiations are due to conclude in Copenhagen in December next year.
But wide gaps among G8 members and between advanced and developing countries have raised doubts about the chances of progress beyond last year's summit in Germany, where the eight richest nations agreed to "seriously consider" a global goal of halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
"I don't think we're expecting a deal. That will come under the UN auspices in Copenhagen next year," Canadian Environment Minister John Baird said en route to Japan.
"What we hope is that we can get some momentum toward a solid progress on climate change."
Activists and the European Union (EU) want the G8 to agree to the 2050 goal discussed in Germany and set 1990 as the base year, and say developed countries should set their own firm mid-term goals for reductions by 2020.
Japan wants the leaders to agree to the 2050 goal but without specifying a base year.
US President George W. Bush, who was to meet Fukuda after arriving in Hokkaido, insists Washington will only set targets if big emerging economies are on board as well.
"Will the effort to be announced by the G8 be convincing enough to get the emerging countries to say 'OK, we're ready now to come on board'? If we can get that in writing at Toyako, we'll have done our job," a French official said.
But an aide to French President Nicholas Sarkozy said he was not optimistic about reaching an agreement on the issue.
Analysts and diplomats have said the G8 leaders are likely to craft a fuzzy agreement on a long-term goal to allow Fukuda to save face, but probably real progress has to wait till a new US president takes office in January.
(China Daily July 7, 2008)