G8 agree on climate change deal, US-Russia tensions ease

By Shada Islam


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Heiligendamm : Leaders of the world's key industrialized nations Thursday reached an agreement on measures to combat climate change, including efforts to halve global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The Group of Eight (G8) summit also witnessed an apparent easing of East-West tensions, with Russian President Vladimir Putin offering to share the use of a missile radar station in Azerbaijan as an alternative to controversial US plans to deploy elements of a missile shield in Central Europe.

Leaders from the US, Canada, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Russia were meeting at the Baltic resort of Heiligendamm amid heavy security.

Demonstrations by thousands of anti-globalisation protestors continued, however, with Greenpeace protesters in inflatable boats barging into a marine exclusion zone near the summit venue.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is chairing the G8 meeting, hailed the deal on fighting climate change as a "great success".

"It is a major step forward," Merkel told reporters, adding: "I can very well live with this compromise." She, however, admitted: "None of these documents are binding."

A summit statement said all G8 leaders were committed to taking "strong and early action" to tackle climate change.

"We will seriously consider the decisions made by the European Union, Canada and Japan which include at least a halving of global emissions by 2050," the statement said, adding: "We commit to achieving these goals."

The summit said all major emerging economies must also join the endeavour.

"As climate change is a global problem, the response to it needs to be international," leaders underlined.

The statement pointed out that the "UN climate process is the appropriate forum for negotiating future global action on climate change" after 2012 expiry of the current Kyoto Protocol on global warming.

As such, all nations must participate "actively and constructively" in the UN climate change conference to be held in Bali, Indonesia in December "with a view to achieving a comprehensive post-2012 agreement that should include all major emitters".

US President George W. Bush came to the summit refusing to agree to specific targets for slashing greenhouse gas emissions. But he made a surprise proposal last week for a meeting of the world's 15 top emitters for discussions on ways of combating global warming.

The US is not a member of the Kyoto Protocol.

Separately at the meeting, Russia's Putin made a surprise offer to share the use of a radar station in Azerbaijan with the US.

This would ensure better protection against a possible Iranian missile threat than US plans for a missile shield in Central Europe, Putin said.

Putin, who met Bush on the margins of the G8 summit, told reporters that Moscow and Washington could jointly operate the Gabala Radar Station in Azerbaijan which is currently rented out to Russia.

The Russian leader, standing next to Bush while speaking to correspondents, said he had cleared the offer with Ilham Aliyev, the president of Azerbaijan.

If the proposal was accepted by Washington, Russia would not need to retarget Europe in response to the US plan to station elements of a missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, Putin added.

He said that such an arrangement would provide security for all of Europe, rather than just parts of the continent.

Bush did not respond to the offer but described his talks with Putin as "open and constructive".

"We will continue to talk about missile defence in the coming weeks," said Bush, adding that he wanted a "constructive and strategic dialogue" with his Russian counterpart.

US-Russia relations have deteriorated rapidly in recent months, largely because of Moscow's opposition to the US missile defence plans.

However, the two leaders are set to meet for two days of talks beginning July 1 in Kennebunkport, Maine, at the Bush family's oceanfront home.