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The G8’s bigheaded problem

This week’s summit has shown that eight nations are not enough to tackle the world’s problems. But as alternatives do not look promising, either, the G8’s crisis comes at the worst possible moment.
G8 japan
Solution-finding, G8-style (via Oxfam International, Flickr)

When a party is boring, even little anecdotal events are appreciated. So no wonder the G8 summit in Hokaido, hosted by the impersonation of a grey civil servant, Yasuo Fukuda, celebrated its small achievements as a success. The group agreed to “consider and adopt” cutting greenhouse emissions by half until 2050, but failed to name the year of the 50 percent’s basic value. The group also noted happily that America’s lame duck, George W. Bush, finally agreed to a quantifiably target.

This is not much, and it last year in Heiligendamm, there was not much beyond symbolism and climate-queen-spin, either. Once designed as an informal meeting to tackle economic questions, the G8 has proved that it cannot solve anything beyond that field. Once, G8 fireside-chats were symbols for the mighty talking. Now, it seems like the English House of Lords, like a bunch of former superpowers pretending to have enough influence to impress a seal on the rest of the world.

But times have changed, economies have emerged. Still, living in a non-polar world does not mean small groups are redundant. The United Nation’s summit in Copenhagen next year will be the place where all countries meet to negotiate binding targets for a Kyoto-follow-up.;Few expect more than a lukewarm compromise. On big topics like climate change, small tables for negotiations might be tailor-made. But the G8 has shown its inflexibility to act, and it is inflexible because it has become institutionalized, bigheaded in the worst possible way.

Before wasting more times with symbolic compromises, the G8 should come to reform itself. Bring on the BRIC countries (Brazil, India China and Russia, which is also in the G8) before they close ranks even more to counterbalance the G8. Consider to include countries from the wealthy part of the Gulf region to tackle climate change, as they will soon be the largest and most important investors worldwide. Such a group could really set the pace for tackling the problem.

The G8 should also take Africa seriously, finally: Compared to 2007, the African countries found themselves as solicants again this year. As long as these countries are neglected, they have no reason to back any measures on fields like climate change or against other problems on a UN level.

The G8 has to transform itself to avoid becoming obsolete. A world without a G8 may not be a tragedy – but a world not taking the right decisions to tackle mankind’s problems would.

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