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G8 summit: The key issues

The G8 summit of industrialised nations on the Japanese island of Hokkaido has come to an end. Here, BBC correspondents sum up the issues that have dominated the talks.

Click on links below to read their views:


Caution on the economy
By economics correspondent Andrew Walker

The price of oil was, perhaps, the biggest economic issue hanging over this summit. The problem surfaced repeatedly in the three days of meetings of G8 leaders and their guests from other, mostly developing, nations.

An oil refinery in the US (file image)
G8 leaders called for more investment in oil production and refining

Meanwhile, in the markets, the oil price went through the wild swings that have become almost routine. Indeed, it fell sharply at one point.

But that was not thanks to what the G8 said. It was because traders thought that weaker economic performance would hit demand for oil.

In fact, it was always going to be a struggle for the G8 to do or say anything that would have an immediate impact. Their ideas are more about the long-term. They called for more investment in the production and refining of crude oil, for more efficient use of energy and more work on alternatives to oil.

Acting on those ideas would make oil cheaper than it would otherwise have been - though not necessarily cheaper than it is now. But they will take years to make much difference to the price at the pump.

The tone of their statement on the world economy was wary. Yes, they said financial market conditions had improved in the last few months. But they also warned that there were still strains.

The head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, seems to agree. He was at the summit and he said it was hard to know how far the financial crisis has to run. What is sure, he said, is that the consequences for the wider economy are still in front of us.

Recycled promises on aid?
By international development correspondent David Loyn

The G8 did not promise fresh funding from rich nations to tackle the food crisis, but pointed out that those present had committed $10bn (5bn) since the start of the year, to help to feed the hungry and provide seeds for farmers to plant this year.

The closing statement appealed to all countries to assist in meeting the demands of the World Food Programme and other bodies coping with the crisis.

Sacks of grain (file image)
G8 leaders appealed to food-producing countries to share their surplus

Agricultural investment, a very low international priority in recent years, will be given an added boost by the demand for a reform of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation. The world economic slowdown has led to fears of increased protectionism, and the leaders appealed to food-producing countries not to hoard food, but rather to "make available a part of their surplus for countries in need".

The summit also tried to give political leadership to attempts to conclude the Doha round of trade talks when ministers from around the world gather in Geneva on 21 July. The trade round, begun in Doha in 2001, was designed to provide better opportunities for the poorest countries in the world, but has become bogged down and will collapse unless a deal is agreed this month.

On Africa, speculation that the final statement would reverse earlier commitments was wide of the mark. But there were no new promises of aid, and the failure to fund the ambitious deal signed at the Gleneagles summit in 2005 has enabled non-governmental organisations like Action Aid to criticise the Japan summit for "recycling already broken promises".

Oxfam said: "The G8 failed to rise to the challenge of a world in crisis."

Climate will 'lacking'
By environment correspondent Richard Black

The G8 on Tuesday, and a wider group of 16 "big emitting" countries on Wednesday, issued statements on climate change, with leaders including US President George W Bush insisting they marked a significant step forward.

With the best will in the world, it is difficult to see how. The G8 document embraces a "vision" for a global target of halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2050; but there are no specifics on how to achieve it, let alone a defined baseline against which to measure the halving.

G8 fails to set climate world alight

The big emitters' group, meanwhile, could not even endorse the 50% goal. Leaders of major developing economies including China and India insisted that rich countries should take concrete steps first.

It is difficult to escape the conclusion that, at a global level, despite the rhetoric and the EU's unilateral commitments, the political will to curb emissions is simply not there; it is not a high enough priority.

Asiatic black bear (Image: David Garshelis)
The G8 made no new real commitments on the issue of biodiversity loss

Imagine a head of state arguing that embracing a "shared vision" of curbing terrorism or stimulating economic growth or sorting out the Middle East by 2050 constituted a "major step forward".

Unthinkable.

Climate change has received all the attention recently, but it is just one of a number of majorenvironmental issues facing the world. And for only the second year, the G8 did get round to looking at another - the loss of biodiversity.

There is a global target - to halt and begin to reverse the loss by 2010. Barring miracles, it will be missed.

Leaders endorsed the "Kobe Declaration" drawn up by G8 environment ministers earlier in the year. The aims are fine - recognising that biodiversity underpins economic development, backing the 2010 target - but there is nothing recognisable as a new commitment to doing something about it.

Unity put to the test
By diplomatic correspondent James Robbins

ZIMBABWE:

Zimbabwe was a major preoccupation at the summit. Gordon Brown and George W Bush made sure of that, determined to ensure the G8 spoke out loud and clear.

After hours of gruelling negotiations by officials, and heavy pressure on Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev, the summit issued a special statement on the second day: "We do not accept the legitimacy of any government that does not reflect the will of the Zimbabwean people."

The G8 recommended the appointment of a special UN envoy to take forward mediation between political parties. Crucially, the leaders agreed: "We will take further steps, inter alia introducing financial and other measures against those individuals responsible for violence."

Their apparent unity was put to the test within hours, with Russia's ambassador to the UN calling the sanctions proposals "excessive" and his president saying: "The G8 gave no concrete decisions on how to react at the UN in this case... The G8 leaders have merely expressed their general concerns."

NORTH KOREA:

The G8, as expected, tried to speed up the disarmament talks with North Korea. "We emphasise the importance of accelerating the six-party talks," the leaders said.

Japan's Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, chair of the summit, told a news conference: "While the road ahead may be long, we should pursue steadfast efforts to achieve a verifiable denuclearisation of the nuclear peninsula."

He also said that the G8 shared Japan's concerns about resolving the issue of North Korea's past abductions of Japanese civilians.




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