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G-8 tackles global warming

Times Staff Writer

Leaders of the Group of 8 wealthy nations got to the heart of their summit today, holding informal talks to see whether they could find common ground for an eventual accord on cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Japan, which is hosting this year’s meeting, and five other G-8 leaders have supported a proposal to cut their emissions in half by 2050. But President Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper have resisted, insisting that any meaningful accord must include emerging industrial powerhouses, especially China.

Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said G-8 leaders agreed at a meeting early today to endorse the cut.

Chinese President Hu Jintao arrived Monday night at the summit on the island of Hokkaido, where leaders of major developing countries have been invited to join discussions with the G-8 on Wednesday.

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Chinese and Indian leaders have been reluctant to make commitments on cutting gases, arguing that they are not responsible for decades’ accumulation of carbon levels in the atmosphere, and that developed countries have a moral obligation to lead in cutting emissions.

Global warming has been a central topic in recent G-8 summits, the annual gathering of leaders from the United States, Japan, France, Britain, Germany, Canada, Italy and Russia.

But this year’s talks on emissions have been complicated by other issues, notably the global economy and the soaring price of oil.

A consensus on cutting greenhouse gases has also been hindered by worries about rising global food prices, blamed in part on farmers switching to biofuel production.

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No one expects Bush, attending his final summit, to make a longer-range commitment to cutting greenhouse gases that would bind his successor.

“There’s an empty chair at the table,” said Philip Clapp, deputy managing director of the Pew Environment Group in Washington, who has been attending G-8 summits for the last decade. “Nobody wants to show the bottom line before the new president takes office.”

The agreement announced by Fukuda, Clapp said, would be for substantially smaller cuts than most members had sought in the past.

Bush is using this summit to address the economic development and health needs of Africa, insisting that the group of wealthy nations make good on aid pledges to the continent.

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At its 2005 gathering in Scotland, the G-8 agreed to double aid by 2010 to $50 billion, with half to go to Africa. A White House spokesperson said the U.S. was on track to fulfill its part of the pledge.

But critics say the G-8 has delivered just $3 billion of the $25-billion commitment to Africa. And there was no agreement yet on steps to ensure that countries honor their pledges.

On Monday, seven African leaders invited to take part in talks with the G-8 leaders pressed the richer nations to keep those pledges.

The three hours of talks with African leaders also underscored the divide between the G-8 and their African counterparts on how to handle President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. Mugabe extended his long rule last month with an election victory marred by violence against his opponents.

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The U.S. and British governments have proposed economic sanctions and an international arms embargo against the Mugabe government. But African leaders have rejected the sanctions appeal, instead urging Mugabe to negotiate a power-sharing arrangement with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Also Monday, Bush had his first face-to-face meeting with Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s new president.

Afterward, he described Medvedev as “a smart guy.”

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don.lee@latimes.com


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