The 2007 G8 summit was a striking success. Its biggest breakthrough came on climate, thanks to Tony Blair’s influence on an accommodating George Bush, bridge building by Canada’s Stephen Harper, and Angela Merkel’s skill in uniting her Atlantic allies on an ambitious new approach. For the first time, there was agreement on a post-Kyoto framework and process, with America and the leading developing countries finally committed to constraining their greenhouse gas emissions and aiming at a substantial reduction of around 50% by 2050. Further details would be defined through several processes feeding into a new UN agreement by 2009, with G8 participants and their outreach partners starting to take real action on a long list of proven measures right away. On climate, George Bush’s America has finally been brought into the transatlantic club.
Through G8 outreach, that club expanded to embrace the rapidly rising, largely democratic global powers of China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa as the O5. In an extension of the 2005 Gleneagles Dialogue on Clean Energy, Climate Change and Sustainable Development, a new Heiligendamm process combined the G8 with its five outreach partners in a two-year structured dialogue on innovation, investment, development and climate. The process had already yielded positive results at a meeting of the G8 and O5 in early May, when the two groups began negotiating an agreement that developing countries would control their carbon if all G8 members would.
On Africa, the G8 reiterated its ambitious agreement at Gleneagles to double aid by 2010 and to ensure universal access for HIV/AIDS patients by then. To prove their credibility, members mobilized US$60B to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, about half of it in previously unpledged funds for the period beyond 2010. It further took up tougher priority parts of the 2002 G8 Africa Action Plan by authorizing action on healthcare systems, peace and security, and, importantly, women and girls.
On the summit’s broader peace and security agenda, allied unity and solidarity with Russia were strengthened on terrorism, weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and several regional security concerns. On Iran, where WMD and terrorism came together, the G8 agreed on a response to Iran’s latest defiance of the UN, and the US and Russia took a welcome step toward working together on a missile defense plan against Iran should all else go wrong.
The G8 was partly pulled into these achievements by increased vulnerability on energy and climate, the inability of the UN and Atlantic institutions to cope, the equalizing capabilities among G8 members, and the need to reach out to the five new powers to restore the G8’s global predominance of old.
More importantly, the G8 was pushed into preventive, long-term action by the skill of Merkel as host and the great G8 diplomacy of Blair, who ensured that the path he had set at Gleneagles in 2005 would be pursued much further at Heiligendamm in 2007.
John Kirton is Director of the G8 Research Group at the University of Toronto.
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