Page last updated at 09:35 GMT, Saturday, 7 November 2009

G20 summit tries to tackle rifts

Alistair Darling iin St Andrews, 07 Nov
Alistair Darling (L) takes a morning walk before opening the meeting

A key meeting of G20 finance ministers has begun in Scotland, amid division on the future of economic stimulus packages and paying for climate change.

Ministers from the 20 leading economies are in St Andrews, Fife, to discuss entrenching global recovery and avoiding a repeat of the credit crunch.

Some G20 nations, including the US, Japan and Germany, want to debate ending measures to boost growth.

But the UK, still mired in a long downturn, is more cautious.

As he opened the summit, UK Chancellor Alistair Darling also urged his colleagues to make progress on the issue of climate change.

Although it is on the agenda at the summit there appear to be disagreements about whether it is the right forum for detailed discussion.

Safe levels

On Friday, Mr Darling said he could not yet be confident the global recovery had "sufficient momentum to be sustained and durable".

He added: "Once we're through this, we must co-ordinate our plans for the recovery, just as we have coordinated our response to this recession.

I would hope that a little bit more can be done, to actually cast in stone the fact that we want to stop excesses, stop abuses, and bonuses that are strictly risk incentives
Christine Lagarde, France's finance minister

"As we draw up our plans, we must accept that the biggest risk to recovery would be to exit before the recovery is real," he added.

The chancellor, who is hosting the talks, has now been joined by Prime Minister Gordon Brown at St Andrews.

John Hilary, executive director of anti-poverty charity War on Want, said the G20 governments had not done enough to address the root causes of the economic crisis and to prevent it happening again.

Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund has voiced concerns about government finances.

It said government debt in the developed G20 countries is likely to reach 118% of annual national income (GDP) in 2014.

It will take years of spending cuts and higher taxes to get debts down to what the IMF calls safe levels.

Once again, France is continuing to press for more to be done to stop excessive bonuses in the banking sector.

"I would hope that a little bit more can be done, to actually cast in stone the fact that we want to stop excesses, stop abuses, and bonuses that are strictly risk incentives," France's Finance Minister Christine Lagarde told the BBC.

Many say the huge bonuses on offer are to blame for bankers taking the kind of risks that led to the financial crisis.

US position

On climate change, several nations want a discussion under the banner of the G20, wary that signs are not looking good ahead of December's climate summit in Copenhagen, where nations hope to thrash out a successor to the Kyoto treaty.

Alistair Darling on the aims of the G20 summit

Mr Darling said on Saturday that there needed to be real progress.

"Finance ministers must be engaged because if there isn't an agreement on contributions the Copenhagen agreement is going to be much more difficult."

The UK government said this month it was highly unlikely that a new legally binding climate treaty could be agreed this year - and said that a full treaty may be a year away.

Several countries appear to be waiting for the US position to become clear.

But, with healthcare a domestic priority and various climate bills making their way slowly through Congress, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has not been in a rush to make promises about what the Obama administration can and cannot do.

Many have voiced concerns about the weakness of the US dollar and strength of the euro and yen, our correspondent said, although G20 ministers did not specifically discuss currencies.

Some countries also remain worried about the rate of progress over closing down tax havens, a key pledge made at the London G20 summit earlier this year.



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