G8 summit 2008 - another missed opportunity ?

Posted in Other | 15-Jul-08 | Author: Ioannis Michaletos

"If Asia follows the course that the West has taken over in the past 200 years, this will ultimately lead…
"If Asia follows the course that the West has taken over in the past 200 years, this will ultimately lead to an ecological catastrophe"
The recent Group of Eight (G-8) meeting in Hokkaido, Japan ended with a general sentiment of a serious deficit concerning the ability of the eight stronger and influential states of the planet to agree and move forward on a compact plan for facing the grave challenges of the contemporary world political environment.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon provided through his remarks the basis for the “Eight” to discuss more specifically the “existence of three world crises: An ecological crisis, a development one and a food one.”

Little delivered, much discussed

Despite the looming projections made by leading scientists and institutes across the planet on the theme of climate changes, the conference failed to deliver any tangible results. Although the European Union, Japan and Russia and the United States agreed on a general framework concerning a 50 percent reduction of C02 emissions before 2050, China and India would have to comply as well, a development that does not raise high hopes. Lastly, there was no agreement as to the criteria that this reduction would be based upon, meaning on the CO2 emissions at 1990 levels or the current ones, a really important detail.

The deficit being experienced by the declarations and culminations regarding the G-8 meeting has been a regular phenomenon over the past few years. Three years ago in Scotland there was an agreement for the delivery of extra capital assistance to the sub-Saharan countries, amounting to US$ 25 billion. At present, not even 25 percent of this amount has been provided and this correlates to the food crisis that already costs thousands of lives and constitutes a threatening condition under which the feeble political systems in Africa face social upheaval. In total, the G-8 agreed to transfer US$ 60 billion to African countries to combat diseases. 45 percent of this money is to be provided before 2010 and the remaining amount afterwards, a delay that may have negative implications.

Especially as far as Europe is concerned, the possibility of a mass immigration movement from Africa through the Magreb countries and into the Southern Mediterranean gates of the EU is a crisis scenario that could be unfolded over the mid-term period and alarms the authorities both in Brussels and in European capitals. José Barroso has pledged the donation of US$ one billion, an amount that can barely suffice for the dramatic changes, as can be explained below.

When asked about climate change following discussions on the environment during the G-8 Summit in Japan, Pope Benedict replied that “there is a need to wake up consciences…politicians and experts must be capable of responding to the great ecological challenge and be up to the task of this challenge.”

Dramatic projections

The European Union is facing a dramatic influx of “eco-immigrants”—those who leave nations that are suffering drought, food shortages and other effects of climate change, to illegally find work in Europe—says a report by the EU’s foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, and external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner.

To prepare for increased immigration, the document suggests boosting the EU’s military in response to the “serious security risks” thought to soon arise due to climate change. The report estimates “there will be millions of environmental migrants by 2020.” According to Dr Isaac Held of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): "Our model predicts an extremely dry Sahel in the future."

"Food energy, and climate are the hot topics that make up international relations agenda"
"Food energy, and climate are the hot topics that make up international relations agenda"
International media such as the Associated Press and official reports by the United States Congress indicate that Africa is seen as one of the most vulnerable regions. An expected increase in droughts there could cut agricultural yields of rain-dependent crops by up to half over the next 12 years.

Moreover, parts of Asia's food crops are vulnerable to droughts and floods, with rice and grain crops potentially facing up to a 10 percent decline by 2025. "As many as 50 million additional people could face hunger by 2020. The water supply, while larger because of melting glaciers, will be under pressure from a growing population and increased consumption. Between 120 million and 1.2 billion people in Asia "will continue to experience some water stress."

Tom Fingar, the Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analysis and Chairman of the National Intelligence Council states that "Latin America may experience increased precipitation, possibly cutting tens of millions of people from the ranks of those in need of water. But 7 million and perhaps as many as 77 million people could be short of water resources because of population growth."

For the time being there is an overwhelming estimation by scientists and politicians alike, that climate change affects world security and the economy and it will continue to do so unless measures are decided and implemented on a global basis. Thus the existence of a decision-making deficit within the annual G-8 meetings could well prove to be a catastrophic delay concerning the present day trends.

The energy burden

The meeting in Japan failed in most respects to address the issue of soaring food and energy prices. Apart from wishful declarations against protectionism in certain world markets and the intention to press for a rise in oil production, nothing else is worth mentioning. Already OPEC and leading oil producing states such as Algeria predict a crude oil price of US$ 170 per barrel by the end of the year, whilst the investment house Goldman Sachs and the insurance multinational Allianz predict an oil price of US$ 200 by 2009. Even more pessimistic are the projections by the Russian energy giant Gazprom, which assumes that oil will reach US$ 250 along with a parallel considerable rise of around 100 percent for the price of natural gas.

The oil issue is perhaps the cornerstone of present day political discussions on a worldwide level. German Chancellor Angela Merkel proposed at the G-8 meeting that the participants invite India and China for this issue in order to examine the consequences of the economic dynamism of those countries in relation to the oil prices.

In reality, the oil issue was not addressed since not even the OPEC producing heads were provided the opportunity to make a presentation of their views on the issue in a concise manner. For the moment, the oil market flows according to the daily global newscasts and predictions with a possible conflict in Iran to become the point at which the whole system could be subject to the biggest spike in price the world has witnessed since 1973. It seems that although a generation has passed, the strongest economies and consumers of oil have still not been able to construct a stable oil market despite investments in renewable energy and the various projects aiming to curb consumption.

"Biodiversity programs should accelerate on a global scale"
"Biodiversity programs should accelerate on a global scale"
The energy crisis is an unfolding process that is being influenced by the high demand for energy in Asian countries such as India and China. The “Westernization” of consumerism that is taking part in many parts of the world requires more oil. There is a depletion of oil reserves and a lack of investment in many oil-producing countries due to environmental and/or political reasons. The issue is of historical proportions and in relation to climate change it could overturn the established political architecture and lead to a series of conflicts in regions rich in energy resources.

The agreement that was mentioned before about cutting carbon emissions by 2050 provides a crystal clear view of the mentality the G-8 meeting was framed upon.

Forty years from now, the effects of the mounting issue will be more obvious. Although everyone recognizes the seriousness of the stakes involved, the main problem seems to be the unwillingness to instigate a set of definite goals and the will to enforce the process swiftly and effectively.

Uncertainty & survival

This has already been understood by leaders of states in need of help. According to information transmitted by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign affairs during the meeting, “certain African leaders although respecting the G-8 decisions are ambivalent as to how and if they are going to be implemented.” Actually the situation is far worse with Africa being speedily delivered in a sequence of events relating to food shortages that will inevitably result to bloody conflicts perhaps within the coming years. Already it is unofficially estimated by international humanitarian organizations that up to 20 million people are on the move in sub-Saharan African states being driven by poverty and food and fuel shortages. The possibility of genocide as it was seen in Rwanda in the mid-1990s is a real possibility nowadays.

Another important point is the assessment that by around 2030, 80 percent of the global population will be urban residents. The mass immigration to the cities that will precede it will be the largest-ever human movement in the course of history. Inevitably, the era of uncertainty for many societies has been reached with great upturns and unknown consequences ahead.

On a world scale there are trials that have surpassed the inability of the G-8 to form a cohesive strategy with practical points. In Norway this year, a “global seeds depository” was established in the Slavbard region which functions as a “Noah’s Arc” for most of the species of plants in order to safeguard them against the tragic fate of extinction due to climate change. Biodiversity is the key to sustaining human civilization as we know it and it has to be noted that even in countries such as the US, over the past 200 years 75 percent of the seeds cultivated have disappeared due to the preference for the production of specific varieties of corn, cotton, rice and wheat.

The trend could be described as a macro-historical one and it has already spread across the planet in the past few decades. In correlation with the biotechnology revolution, a new scene emerges upon which the main producers would agree on the safeguard of the natural resources and the ability of the system to accommodate the introduction of genetically modified species. A whole range of conclusive discussions should have already been done around the pros and cons of the above in conjunction with the food shortage crisis. The G-8 meeting failed to address the importance of biodiversity in the world agrarian sector upon which all people depend for their daily nutrition needs and survival.

Thoughts & proposals

"There is an urgent need for mass introduction without hesitation of renewable energy products"
"There is an urgent need for mass introduction without hesitation of renewable energy products"
The current world leaders that met in the tranquil environment of Hokkaido are extremely burdened by a series of culminations that describe the existence of an impeding world crisis that affects the core of the economy and politics of the planet. Food, energy and climate are the hot topics that make up international relations agendas nowadays; therefore there should be a call for action as soon as possible.

Certain proposals that should only be used as a rough guide as to what could be discussed as a course for further action are:

On the energy issue:

  • Mass introduction without hesitation of renewable energy production so as to make it economically profitable and at the same time reduce oil dependency and achieve a considerable reduction of carbon emissions.
  • Reduction of the obligatory strategic oil reserves in the EU and USA from 90 days to perhaps even 60. This will lead to a sudden oil price crash and revive economic dynamism in many parts of the world.
  • Capital gains by hedge funds investing in energy futures should be subject to larger tax that could be transferred to a UN or international authority account for emergency conditions.

On the food shortage issue:

  • Biodiversity programs should accelerate on a global scale in order to prevent the grave consequences of a sudden ecological upturn.
  • Regulation regarding the production of plants such as cotton that require tremendous amounts of water resources should be discussed.
  • Genetically modified products should be introduced to developing markets, provided that they are thoroughly checked against any negative results for the health of the population.
  • The bio-fuel market should be subject to meticulous programming in order to avoid a food shortage, a development that has already begun.
  • Water management projects should be internationally encouraged and water over-consumption should be regulated in parallel with the speedier introduction of technologies for desalination and artificial rain.
  • Overpopulation problems in developing states can be addressed via educational and state policies that first of all will have to recognize the importance of world population stabilization, an issue of political brinkmanship but also of vital importance for the coming decades.
  • The oceans are the last and a vast depository of food and natural wealth on the planet. They should be exploited with caution and vision.

On the climate change

  • The importance of China, India and the other emerging and developing mega-countries should be addressed, especially in relation to the formation of an urban culture that imitates the consumer habits of the Western world. In simple terms it has to be understood that if Asia follows the course that the West has taken over the past 200 years, this will ultimately lead to an ecological catastrophe of staggering proportions.
  • Coastal regions and islands in danger of extinction should already have made contingency plans regarding evacuation procedures since certain effects of the climate change cannot be reversed over the mid-term period.
  • The urban areas that since 2007 accommodate more than 50 percent of the world population for the first time in human history have to be the main focus of measures, since they are the ones responsible for the bulk of emissions directly or indirectly. Decentralization procedures and the use of technology that will offer challenging opportunities for small communities can be a first practical step.
  • In general, central command structures that inhibit the autonomy of social groups should be discouraged and instead, communities of people able to produce sufficient amounts of food and industrial production should be encouraged. Climate changes are not easy to comprehend and they cannot be predicted precisely; therefore it is in the interest of world population to be more self-reliant, especially in countries that lack a sophisticated state apparatus and social welfare system, as is the case for 80 percent of the UN members presently.