July 16, 2009 <!–abdulruff–>
-By Dr. Abdul Ruff Colachal ***
I- Reckless Capitalism causes Recession and Emissions As a routine matter to boost avenues for reckless capitalist formations around the world, the world’s most powerful capitalist plus leaders gathered for the G8 summit three-days from 8 to 10 July in an Italian earthquake zone in the town of L’Aquila, where damage is still clearly visible from a quake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale which killed almost 300 in April. The 2009 G8 Summit of the world’s richest nations Canada, the Russian Federation, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, the UK, and the USA, together with the EU represented by the European Council’s duty President and by the President of the European Commission generated a lot of expectations amid the meltdown. In addition to its traditional members, the Italian duty Presidency had invited to the Summit the countries that make up the Major Economies Forum, the NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development) founder states, the representatives of the African Union and Spain, Turkey and the Netherlands. Italy currently holds the Group of Eight industrialized nations Presidency and Italian president Silvio Berlusconi switched the summit venue from Sardinia to show solidarity with quake victims and has faced criticism for the supposedly chaotic preparation for the event for “professional run”. The purpose of the G8 – the main industrialized ‘democracies’ forum for dialogue – is to come up with fresh answers to the main global political and economic issues. The key issues on the agenda, however, are directly linked to Italy’s own problems: a response to the global economic and financial crisis; the restoration of grassroots confidence and a boost to growth on a more solid and balanced basis, also through the definition of new, shared ground rules for economic activities; a focus on the social aspect of employment, to help the weaker sectors of society both in the industrially advanced countries and in the poorer countries; the struggle against protectionism and the deregulation of world trade for everyone’s benefit; the resolution of regional crises; food security and safety; and the struggle against climate changes. To debate these issues, the Italian Presidency has organized a G8 Summit which will be unique in terms of the number of countries attending, comprising as it will both the emerging countries, Africa and the main International Organizations. Some 90% of the world’s economy was represented at the Summit in the expanded working sessions. G8 leaders believed the world economy still faces “significant risks” and may need further help; summit draft documents suggest failure to agree climate change goals for 2050. Documents before the G8 summit began on 08 July cautioned that “significant risks remain to economic and financial stability” while “exit strategies” from pro-growth packages should be unwound only “once recovery is assured.” the International Monetary Fund said it believed the global economy was starting to pull out of recession but recovery would be sluggish and policies needed to remain supportive. After discussing the core economic issues at G8, the less important nations were asked to join them the following day for the report and possible necessary joint action. On 09 July G8 “big” nations were joined by the “plus five” group of emerging economies China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa to discuss climate change and development. The G5 urged rich nations to remove trade barriers and restore credit to poor countries. The G8 and G5 did hope for progress on the stalled Doha trade talks, with agreement possible on concluding them by 2010. Launched in 2001 to help poor countries prosper, the Doha round has stumbled on proposed tariff and subsidy cuts. A few big initiatives were expected as the Italy G20, a broader forum that also includes the main emerging economies, is tasked with formulating a regulatory response to the crisis and meets in September in Pittsburgh after an April summit in London. The Group of Eight kicked off with debate on the economic crisis, after what one analyst called a “reality check” in recent weeks on the prospects for rapid recovery. G8 leaders badly underestimated the economic problems facing them when they met in Japan last year and were expected to focus on what must be done to prevent another meltdown. Although there have been signs of stability in the economy and the sentiment has improved, the real economy has not recovered yet with job and wage conditions still stagnant. Britain sought progress on the agreements reached at the G20 summit in London in April to reform the international financial system and pump billions into the world economy. Ahead of the summit, Brown said the international community must maintain its focus on restoring lending by banks, reining in oil prices – which have risen by 75 per cent this year – and fighting protectionism. G-8 summit has suffered a setback with Chinese President Hu Jintao’s return home to deal with rioting and killings of Muslims in Xinjiang. President Obama voiced confidence that leaders will maintain their support for economic stimulus strategies in the face of a global recession. On the first day of a meeting, the G8 failed to get global polluters China and India to accept the goal of halving emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050. China, the top most polluter of the global environment causing fear among the island nations, did not pat take in the deliberations because President Hu Jintao had left the venue on account of domestic political problem resulting in the death of Muslims. President Obama chaired the 17-member Major Economies Forum(MEF), comprising the world’s biggest carbon emitters USA and China and also including Australia, Indonesia, South Korea and the EU, in a meeting designed to pave the way for a post-Kyoto agreement on action to halt global warming at Copenhagen in December. No agreement was expected, but Britain hoped L’Aquila would act as a springboard for agreement later in the year on 50 per cent cuts in CO2 by 2050. Obama said on 09 July there was still time to close the gap with developing powers on climate change, after the U.N. chief criticized the G8 for not going hard enough. Obama said progress could still be made before talks on a new U.N. climate change treaty in Copenhagen in December. As Leaders met in L’Aquila, a mountain town wrecked by April’s earthquake and a fitting backdrop to talks on a global economy struggling to overcome the worst recession in living memory, Britain hoped to receive strong support in its current stand-off with Iran over a detained embassy workers for the ailed anti-Ahamadinejad coup while other leaders looked at the prospects for nuclear weapons reductions following talks between Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. The G8 approved a new $15 billion (£9bn) for agricultural development in poor countries to ensure food supplies. The G8 nations are expected to use a meeting on the problems of the developing world to announce the spending plan over three years to boost agricultural investment in poorer countries. The focus on agricultural investments reflects a US-led shift away from emergency aid assistance towards longer-term strategies to try to make communities more self-sufficient. II -Climate Change Temperatures have risen by about 0.7 Celsius since the Industrial Revolution ushered in widespread use of fossil fuels. Most scientists agree that even a slight increase in average temperatures would wreak havoc on farmers around the globe, as seasons shift, crops fail and storms and droughts ravage fields. G8 countries agreed among themselves on a goal of cutting global emissions by 50 percent by 2050, with the USA accepting this for the first time. They also set a reduction goal of 80 percent in aggregate for developed countries. China has just overtaken the U.S. as the world’s biggest polluter, and India, which is close behind. The comments came at the conclusion of a meeting of the 17-nation Major Economies Forum, which includes the G-8 – Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Japan and the United States – and other emerging countries: Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia, Australia, South Korea and the European Union also are in that club of the world’s major polluters. Developing nations along with more than 30 world leaders invited, argue that they have to consume more energy to end poverty and that rich nations must make deep emission cuts of their own by 2020. The packed first day was due to wrap up with talks on an array of international issues, including Iran’s post-election violence and nuclear program. However, these are unlikely to lead to any immediate action, such as a tightening of sanctions. Human beings are not equipped to comprehend the dangers of an overheating planet before they fry to death., without the cooperation of the developing countries there is simply no way to avert climate change. It seems necessary to slash global greenhouse-gas emissions just 50% below 2000 levels by 2050–a far less aggressive goal than what the enviros say is necessary to avert climate catastrophe and even if the West reduced its emissions by 80% below 2000 levels, developing countries would still have to return their emissions to 2000 levels to meet the 50% target. At the G8 summit in Gleneagles in 2005, world leaders promised to increase annual aid levels by £30 billion by 2010, half of which was meant to go to African countries. But aid organisations say some countries have gone back on their word, especially this year’s G8 host Italy, and African heads of state said they would voice their concerns. Ethiopian Prime Minister M. Zenawi said the key message for them is to ask the G8 to live up to their commitments.” The leaders of Algeria, Angola, Egypt, Libya, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa are expected to push their demand for compensation for the ravages of climate change. Obama said industrialized countries, the USA included, had a “historic responsibility” to take the lead in emissions reduction efforts because they have a larger carbon footprint than developing nations. The chasm between rich and poor on how to address climate change burst into the open at the G-8 summit, showing how difficult it will be to persuade the world to make lifestyle and economic sacrifices needed to save the planet from global warming. Especially reluctant to commit to change were two budding powers that are just now getting comfortable economically: India and China. Obama said developing nations have to do their part, as well. The best commitment that the USA can make on climate change lies with energy legislation moving through Congress as well as Obama’s desk that puts in place a system, a market-based system that lessens the amount of greenhouses gases in the air.. The House has narrowly passed a bill demanding caps on greenhouse gas that industry emits, enabling polluters to purchase the rights for emissions from others to encourage the development of alternative sources of energy such as wind and solar power. The measure faces a battle in the Senate, however, with Republicans criticizing a plan that will add to the cost of household energy bills over time as a “national energy tax.” III- Usual Gimmicks Italy’s earthquake zone L’aquila, which became alive with loud noises made by big powers is again silent now. Two days of negotiations between the world’s major industrial polluters and developing nations failed to make any major breakthrough on firm commitments to reduce carbon emissions. While both sides said for the first time that global average temperatures shouldn’t rise over 2 degrees Celsius, they didn’t set any joint targets to reach that goal. And significantly, the G8 nations made no firm commitment to help developing countries financially cope with the effects of rising seas, increased droughts and floods, or provide the technology to make their carbon-heavy economies more climate friendly. The annual G8 Leaders’ Summit is the highest-profile and most important event in the G8 profit process. While economic issues remained the focus of the summit, climate also found its fullest possible place in the debates; however, unwillingness on the part of the G8, its resolution did not find clear cut support for emission control. In a way as to sum up the Summit, the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said progress on climate change at the G8 was “not enough” so far. “This is politically and morally (an) imperative and historic responsibility … for the future of humanity, even for the future of the planet Earth,” the U.N. chief said. As speculated, the fragile state of the world economy dominated the first day of the summit, with rich nations acknowledging there were still significant risks to financial stability. President Barack Obama urged emerging economies to “do more” to curb global warming, while the U.N. chief demanded developed countries set an example and take more concrete steps to reduce pollution. Obama did announce that the Group of 20 major economies would take up the climate financing issue at their meeting in September in Pittsburgh – a move environmentalists said could help break the logjam while sending developing countries a signal that the G-8 is serious about financing. The G8 member Russia objected saying it could not hit this target by 2050 and Canada’s Environment Minister Jim Prentice said 80 percent was an “aspirational goal”. China used the broader forum on the second day to make its argument — backed by Russia, India and Brazil — for long-term diversification of the global reserve currency system away from reliance on the dollar, a sensitive issue on currency markets. Progress was hampered by the absence of Chinese President Hu Jintao, who left L’Aquila to attend to ethnic clashes in China’s northwest that have killed 156 people. Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he hoped the temperature target would be agreed by “all the countries around the table today” — the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Canada and Russia, plus emerging powers like China, India, Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia and Mexico. But one G8 source said it was “not realistic” to expect a deal on emissions. Progress on the environment was impeded by Chinese President Hu Jintao returning home due to unrest and state terrorism killing the Muslims in northwestern China in which 156 people, mostly Muslims, have died. Before he left, summit host Silvio Berlusconi spoke of Chinese “resistance” on climate goals. The MEF, however, agreed to try to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) versus pre-industrial levels but not to agree on the scale of emission cuts. Obama said there was still time to close the gap with developing powers on climate change, after the U.N. chief criticized the G8 for not going hard enough. The G8 failed to get China and India to accept the goal of halving emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050. Ban said progress could still be made before talks on a new U.N. climate change treaty in Copenhagen in December. The G-8 did set a long-term commitment to reduce their carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050. But they made no shorter-term target, despite warnings from a U.N. panel that they must cut emissions between 25 percent and 40 percent by 2020 to keep average global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees above preindustrial levels 150 years ago. A draft MEF document dropped any reference to this and aimed instead for agreement on the need to limit the average increase in global temperature to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times. Cindy Baxter of Greenpeace said G8 leaders were “watering down climate ambitions,” a bad omen for December’s U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen seeking a successor to the Kyoto pact, since emission cuts are a prerequisite for limiting temperature rises. The group of eight developed countries have vowed to curb transfer enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) technology and equipment, surprising India as it goes against the spirit of Nuclear Suppliers Group’s “clean” waiver to it. In a joint statement on non-proliferation, the G-8 nations also pushed other members of the 45-nation NSG to reach a consensus within this year to disallow transfer of ENR to countries which are not signatories to NPT. The move, which would have an impact on India, comes even though the NSG had last September given New Delhi “clean” and “full” waiver for civil nuclear cooperation with the world despite it being a non-signatory to NPT. “To reduce the proliferation risks associated with the spread of enrichment and reprocessing facilities, equipment and technology, we welcome the progress that continues to be made by the NSG on mechanisms to strengthen controls on transfers of such enrichment and reprocessing items and technology,” said the statement. While noting that the NSG has not yet reached consensus on this issue, the G-8 nations said “we agree that NSG discussions have yielded useful and constructive proposals contained in the NSG’s ”clean text” developed at the November 20, 2008 Consultative Group meeting. Not mentioning China’s push for a sensitive debate about a long-term alternative to the dollar as global reserve currency, the draft talked only of global “imbalances.” G8 diplomats had said this might be the only oblique reference to currency. “Stable and sustainable long-term growth will require a smooth unwinding of the existing imbalances in current accounts,” read the draft prepared for the G8 talks. China complains that dollar domination has exacerbated the global crisis and worries that the bill for U.S. recovery poses an inflation risk for China’s dollar assets, an estimated 70 percent of its official currency reserves. One area where a breakthrough is possible is trade. A draft communiqué suggested the G8 and “G5″ developing nations would agree to conclude the stalled Doha round of trade talks in 2010. Launched in 2001 to help poor nations prosper through trade, the talks have stumbled on proposed tariff and subsidy cuts. But the G8 results indicate how difficult it will be to craft a new climate change treaty by December, when nations from around the world will gather in Copenhagen, Denmark, to negotiate a successor to the 1987 Kyoto protocol, which expires in 2012. Countries like China and India – the next generation of big polluters – want the industrial countries to commit to reducing carbon emissions by 40 percent over the next decade before they commit to any reductions of their own. Without that commitment from the G-8, they refused to make any targets of their own. Capitalism characterizing the G-8 plus nations cannot allow poor nations to become rich; they only let rich become richer. The summit which wanted to reduce food prices alone cost over $600 million – the annual budget of the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is $400 million. Proposals to challenge hunger have become a common feature of international conferences since the 2008 food crisis. The 83% increase in food prices between 2005 and 2008 led to a massive surge in global hunger. Past policies of the group have favoured free trade in food and agricultural commodities. However, rich countries subsidize and protect their domestic agriculture and they dominate food prices on the global market. These policies have harmed developing countries, creating food dependency and deepened hunger. The number of hungry in 2008 increased from 854 million to 963 million in the space of a year. The number of hungry reached a historic high in 2009, with 1.02 billion people – one-sixth of humanity – going hungry every day. Despite commitments, pledges, and grandiose communiqués by rich donor nations to challenge hunger at numerous international summits, world hunger persists. The problem lies in the fallacious explanations for the food crisis, and in the promotion of market and technology-based solutions to the problem. This is a negotiation after all. G-8 climate talks have divided rich and poor countries and favored rich guys. The policies that they have stated so far are not enough, not sufficient enough,” Ban said. The G-8 leaders should reach consensus on the midterm binding goals of cutting greenhouse emission and stop asking the developing nations to act first as an excuse for their not committing to the binding goals. It looks perfectly understandable for developing countries to refuse to commit to reduction targets when they have no idea how they’re going to pay for them or what industrialized countries are going to commit to in the short term. But the starting gun has sounded and everyone knows they need to go home and start thinking seriously about what they can bring to the table. It’s no surprise if developing nations aren’t rushing in to sign up for new goals and targets right away. World must work according to the science. This is politically and morally imperative and a historic responsibility for the leaders for the future of humanity, even for the future of planet Earth. West is keen to take full control of the energy resources of the Islamic world and hence US-led terror wars are, on some fictitious pretexts, still going on. Possibly, Islamic economics could be tired by all western powers to ward off recession, rising prices and persistent global hunger crisis, by creating efficient agricultural and food markets. The G8 needs to take responsibility and support efforts of governments in developing countries to put in place or restore sustainable, equitable, and resilient agricultural systems. G8 should recognize the need for developing countries to have policy space to determine agricultural policies that meet the needs of their populations. During last years, environmentalists have convinced themselves that the main obstacle to their grand designs to recalibrate the Earth’s thermostat was a stupid and callow U.S. president Bush unwilling to lead the rest of the world. So much so, Obama’s call to action at summit in Italy yielded little more than polite applause. G8 causual call to never ever let the Earth’s temperature rise two degrees centigrade from pre-industrial levelsprelude to the real horse-trading over emissions cuts that will begin in a Copenhagen, Denmark, meeting this December. Many argue the world should concentrte on economic profits right now and leave the climatze issue for the timebeing. The world may have far more immediate and scarier problems than climate change to address right now, but the UN and other relevant bodies must address the climate issue on priority basis, before the isand nations submerge into the seas. Prevention, it is said, is much better than cure!
— By Dr. Abdul Ruff Colachal