Climate Change Tops Agenda at Opening of G-8 President Bush arrives at the G-8 summit in Germany on Wednesday with a new plan on climate change as leaders of major industrialized countries gather for three days. But a bitter debate over missile defense looms over the talks.
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Climate Change Tops Agenda at Opening of G-8

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Climate Change Tops Agenda at Opening of G-8

Climate Change Tops Agenda at Opening of G-8

Climate Change Tops Agenda at Opening of G-8

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/10758128/10758129" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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President Bush arrives at the G-8 summit in Germany on Wednesday with a new plan on climate change, as leaders of the major industrialized countries gather for three days of talks.

The talks however are likely to be overshadowed, however, by a bitter debate between the U.S. and Russia over Washington's plans to base a missile defense in Poland and the Czech Republic.

On Wednesday, President Bush discounted Russian President Vladimir Putin's threat to re-target missiles on Europe, telling The Associated Press that "Russia is not going to attack Europe."

Meanwhile, several hundred protesters swarmed a seven-mile fence surrounding the summit grounds in Heiligendamm, Germany, where Bush and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were to meet. Police fired water cannons to disperse the crowd.

On the issue of climate change, Bush is also likely to get a frosty response from other leaders, many of whom are likely to see the latest plan from Washington as too little, too late.

"The United States has finally taken a step, great. What we don't know is whether it's a step backward, or sideways," said Thomas Valasek, who heads the foreign policy program at the London-based Center for European Reform.

"But most people would agree it's not a step forward, not in the sense of supporting anything the Europeans, under the aegis of the Kyoto protocol, have agreed on," he said.

The Kyoto protocol is the current mechanism to cut greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. The U.S. never ratified Kyoto, but it did sign the umbrella United Nations treaty that aims to avoid dangerous human interference with the climate. White House environmental adviser James Connaughton said President Bush's proposal is intended to fit with that U.N. framework convention.

"It was never anybody's intention to have a separate process," he said. "The U.S. is a party to U.N. framework convention on climate change, and that is the forum where the world takes action on climate change."

However, he reiterated the administration's belief that the Kyoto method for cutting greenhouse gasses won't work in the U.S.

"We'll have a successful summit if things have moved on from before. I believe the commitment to accept reduction goals and to recognize scientific findings is a step forward," Merkel said.

Climate Change, Africa on Table at G-8 Summit

Dispatches From the G8

NPR reporters covering President Bush's Europe trip and the G8 Summit in Germany, June 6-8, provide an insider's view.

President Bush plans stops at several nations while on his trip to the G8 Summit. Lindsay Mangum, NPR hide caption

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Lindsay Mangum, NPR

President Bush plans stops at several nations while on his trip to the G8 Summit.

Lindsay Mangum, NPR

Climate change, the Middle East peace process, health and poverty in Africa and global trade are among the issues likely to be the center of debate and discussion at the 33rd annual G-8 conference.

This year's Group of Eight Summit — bringing together the leaders of Germany, Britain, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States — runs June 6-8 in Heiligendamm, Germany.

Germany holds the G-8 presidency for 2007, so its government and Chancellor Angela Merkel define the issues on the table at the meeting.

The United States first launched what is now known as the G-8 in 1974 in an effort to better strategize about the global economy and political issues. It was initially called the "Library Group" and included top officials from the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan. As representatives from other countries were quickly added, it became the G-6 and, then, the G-7. It was not until 1998, when Russia was officially welcomed, that the consortium became known as the G-8.

The eight countries involved together account two-thirds of the world's economic output, according to the U.S. State Department. Because it has the smallest economy, Russia does not participate in financial discussions.

While the agenda for this year's meeting has not been finalized, the following topics likely will be areas of focus for the Group of Eight, which aims to improve the reliability of the global economy and assist less-advantaged parts of the world:

  • World Climate: Environmental issues tend to be discussed heavily at the G-8 conference. According to NPR reports, Germany is likely to push for significant measures to curb global warming, with energy efficiency among key points. The United States is expected to have a more conservative approach toward this issue. Last week, President Bush propsed a new plan for reducing greenhouse gases that would include talks with China and India. The Bush Administration has held off on signing the Kyoto Treaty, citing the need for these two countries to participate.
  • Global Trade: Germany has placed great emphasis in its overall agenda on stability in world trade and in setting forth policy aimed at making markets more transparent, reducing imbalances, stabilizing investment conditions and encouraging innovation.
  • Issues in Africa: Since assuming the G-8 presidency in January, Merkel has put emphasis on helping the continent with reforms geared at reducing poverty, political corruption and the spread of HIV and AIDS.
  • Middle East Peace Process: Germany has been outspoken about the importance of the world's role in aiding peace talks.
  • Other issues that could reach the table include social developments related to globalization, proliferation of nuclear and chemical weapons, ongoing battles in Iraq, Afghanistan and other regions, and global terrorism.