$20 billion food aid vowed at G8

Emerging states tell rich to take the lead role in emissions cuts


Leaders of the Group of Eight industrialized nations and other countries pledged Friday to provide $20 billion over the next three years to increase food production in developing nations, up from an initial $15 billion target.

In a chairman’s summary released Friday, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi also stated that leaders “acknowledged that their action is strengthened by engaging with the major emerging economies.”

While the meeting, which ended in L’Aquila, Italy, on Friday, failed to produce a pledge by major greenhouse gas emitters to realize a 50 percent global cut by 2050, a joint statement on food security promises $20 billion in agriculture investments to ensure global food security.

Of the total aid pledged, Japan agreed to provide around $3 billion to boost food productivity in the developing world, according to a Foreign Ministry official. “This shows that Japan intends to assist agricultural development from a mid- to long-term perspective,” the official said, adding that Prime Minister Taro Aso called on his counterparts to invest responsibly in foreign agriculture without resorting to what he called “land grabs.”

“A healthy investment in food is essential,” Aso said, according to the Foreign Ministry official.

Calling the development “one of the only bright spots of the summit,” Gawain Kripke of the nongovernmental organization Oxfam said in a statement that the pledge was higher than expected.

The new investment makes a down payment on eliminating hunger, the activist said.

During the final sessions Friday morning, the G8 and the expanded framework that includes China, India, Brazil, South Africa and Mexico, the so-called G-5, and several other African nations, also discussed the effect of the economic downturn on Africa and how to assist the continent in its fight against climate change.

Efforts to supply water and improve sanitation in Africa were agreed upon, with developed countries pledging a stronger partnership to achieve the goals.

Following the end of the summit, Prime Minister Taro Aso told reporters the G8 will remain a critical framework despite questions about its effectiveness.

“The relevance of the G8, which has contributed to the world, will continue to grow” because so many countries are intertwined in a variety of issues, Aso said in L’Aquila.

Although the major economies failed to set a long-term global target for a greenhouse gas emissions cut, he said hope for an agreement in Copenhagen is not lost.

“The major growing economies have agreed to reduce a substantial amount of greenhouse gas,” Aso said, calling the development “visible progress.”

Asked about the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election Sunday, Aso reiterated that it is a local poll and does not directly effect the Diet or his opinion.

“It is true the timing to decide (on calling a general election) is getting closer,” he said, without saying when he might dissolve the Lower House.

On the second day of the summit, discussions expanded from the G8 to include delegations from the Group of Five as well as Egypt.

Later in the day, South Korea, Australia, Indonesia and Denmark joined the group as the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, or MEF, took place.

But the nations disagreed over halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, with developing countries insisting that rich nations have a “historical” responsibility to address the issue first.

Although the G8 agreed Wednesday to an 80 percent cut in emissions by 2050, the bold target was never mentioned by developing countries Thursday, according to a Foreign Ministry official.

Meanwhile, the groundwork for a new international carbon-capping framework must be completed by December, when the United Nations will hold a crucial climate change meeting in Copenhagen to draw up a successor to the Kyoto Protocol.

“We will continue our discussions for the rest of the year,” a Foreign Ministry official said, stressing that developing nations did agree that the increase in global average temperature should not exceed 2 degrees above preindustrial levels.

But the official also admitted no substantial progress has been made toward cutting global emissions by 50 percent by 2050 since the proposal was first made a year ago at the G8 summit in Toyako, Hokkaido.

During a news conference Wednesday by the G-5 members, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that although developing countries recognize the obligation to protect the environment, climate change “cannot be addressed by perpetuating the poverty of the developing countries.”

Developing nations also called on rich states to provide financing to address the effects of climate change, including rising sea levels and heat waves.

On the global economy, the expanded meeting agreed in a statement that members will “cooperate to ensure that the global economy resumes growth along a balanced, equitable and sustainable path for the benefit of all.”