Last week’s G-8 summit of the world’s eight richest countries, along with five key developing nations, was supposed to lend fresh impetus to the global fight against poverty, ill-health, hunger and illiteracy. What defies explanation is the invitation to the five leading developing countries, including India and China, to attend as part of an outreach programme, without giving them any voice in what the summit would declare as the outcome. From this viewpoint, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has done well to criticize the G-8 for issuing the final communiqué a day ahead of the confabulations with the five invitees. He is entirely justified in maintaining that there is no point in attending such meetings in future, if the developing countries’ views are not to be reflected in the final outcome.
No trade winds at G-8
On trade, G-8 leaders barely even tried to change the world. Talking to the press, Tony Blair initially forgot even to mention trade. When a journalist pressed him he merely said the Doha round “hangs in the balance” and that it would only take the big players to move a few billion on a subsidy here and a few percentage points on a tariff there for a deal to be done.
Nor did the summit produce the anticipated froideur between Vladimir Putin and his counterparts.
Where the summit shifted things was on the subject of climate change. True, even a surface interpretation reveals that this is a deal with more holes than a golf course. But at last the US signalled its willingness to work within a UN framework and to consider emissions targets.
Climate change unchallenged
Global warming threatens the very survival of the planet just as the possibility of a nuclear holocaust did in the cold war years. Yet it is remarkable how the G-8 continues to waffle on the subject.
All that Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper, for instance, could say was that ”we have produced a very good document after some very animated discussion”. Except for Merkel, G-8 chiefs want to steer clear of discussing quantitative targets. At this rate, the successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, which is due to expire in 2012, does not inspire confidence.
India and China should take the lead in persuading the US and the EU to set aside 10% of their defence budgets for another form of security expenditure—one that protects mankind from possible extinction.
India should take the lead
The agreement on climate change announced at the G-8 summit in Heiligendamm may, at first sight, appear to be a breakthrough. However, it falls short of the real, decisive, practical action needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly.
If the G-8 failed to break major new ground, official India’s stance on, and approach to, climate change can be seen to bring up the rear in the international arena of debate and action. As one of the five ascendant economies engaged by the G-8, India has a great responsibility to root its national policy in science and in a progressive and ethical vision of the future of the planet.
But any real progress towards halving emissions by mid-century from an appropriate base year (as Germany proposed) now depends on further discussions in the UN.