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Editorial

We must fight global warming in earnest - the G8 Summit kicks off (July 7, 2008)

Soaring oil and food prices have sparked outcry worldwide.

Speculative money that transcends national boundaries has thrown economies into disarray, causing the dollar to plummet and creating widespread inflationary pressure.

The phrases "the third oil crisis" and "the worst financial turmoil of the postwar era" are even being bandied about.

Writing a prescription to cure these ills is at the top of the agenda for the Group of Eight leaders meeting in Toyako today.

The situation is reminiscent of the first summit meeting at Chateau de Rambouillet on the outskirts of Paris, France, in 1975.

At that time, the first oil crisis was in full swing, triggered by the Yom Kippur War of 1973. A series of debilitating factors - including international exchange rate volatility and the plummeting dollar - led to the birth of the summit meeting as a forum for industrialized nations to unite.

However, there is a defining difference between then and now: climate change weighs heavily on the current turmoil.


Time to commit ourselves to halving greenhouse gas emissions

One of the factors pushing food prices higher is the occurrence of droughts in Australia and other agricultural countries. The advance of global warming is expected to result in increasingly serious damage to crop production.

Biofuel production is spreading as if inextricably linked to soaring oil prices, and competition between edible crops and fuel crops is boosting food prices further.

In attempting to solve problems, we create new problems; the threat of global warming has surfaced unexpectedly.

There is no doubt that global warming will further reduce water resources and the amount of land available for farming. It will adversely affect not only agriculture, but also ocean and marine resources.

Inevitably, food shortages will be exacerbated, disasters will occur more frequently and the number of environmental refugees will increase.

Last year's G8 Summit in Heiligendamm, Germany, agreed to "seriously consider" halving global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

This goal was set in response to a report issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Halving greenhouse gas emissions requires the rigorous dissemination of natural energy sources and the development of energy conservation technologies.

Without changing the dependence of socioeconomic structures on oil and other fossil fuels, achieving this goal is all but impossible.

Once the goal is attained, however, it may pave the way toward stable energy prices, including those of oil.

At the Toyako Summit, the G8 leaders must make a clear commitment to halving greenhouse gas emissions, thus bringing the Heiligendamm promise one step further.

The leading industrialized nations should share the resolve to reduce emissions boldly and persistently.


Summit president's skill to be tested

To halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, it is vital to establish a medium-term goal of shifting them into decline by around 2020.

Whether or not a numerical target can be set is the litmus test for the Hokkaido Toyako Summit.

Among industrialized nations, the U.S. - the largest emitter - is passive about such a move.

Washington appears to believe that developing nations such as China and India must join efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and that commitments only by industrialized nations are meaningless.

On the other hand, developing nations argue that developed countries should reduce emissions first.

To achieve the breakthrough needed, goals to be pursued by both developed and developing nations must first be confirmed. It is therefore desirable to set differentiated goals that each country can achieve.

As chair, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda's skills in forging a consensus among world leaders will be subjected to close scrutiny.

This paper hopes that Mr. Fukuda will openly discuss a range of issues with Mr. Bush and form a consensus in his role as the leader of a nation known for its cutting-edge environmental technologies.


Looking at the world from Toya

Along with global warming, this year's Summit agenda also covers economy, soaring food prices and poverty. In this regard, a total of four outreach sessions will be held within the three-day schedule.

Also in Hokkaido are leaders of China and India among other developing nations, the food-exporting countries of Australia and Brazil, and African nations. They are set to join discussions with the Group of Eight leaders on a number of themes.

There has been an increase in the number of issues that cannot be addressed through simple coordination among the interests of industrialized nations and those that are beyond the control of industrialized countries.

It can safely be said that the issues at hand must be addressed from a global perspective, rather than the previous practice of alliance among cronies. We hope the Summit will give rise to the chance for informative discussions.

Numerous nongovernmental organizations have also tried to get involved in the G8 Summit in one way or another.

Whatever the problem, be it global warming or poverty, there are fields where people can contribute as global citizens.

Leaders should also realize the enormity of citizens' power.

The Hokkaido Toyako Summit serves as a good opportunity for us, the citizens of the prefecture, to consider global warming and other worldwide issues as our immediate problems.

If the three-day discussions fail to indicate the wisdom of humanity, the raison d'etre of the G8 Summit itself will be called into question.

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