At G-8, expectations low

An activist is arrested at a demonstration against the G-8 Summit Saturday in Sapporo, Japan. Five thousand people participated in the protest.

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An activist is arrested at a demonstration against the G-8 Summit Saturday in Sapporo, Japan. Five thousand people participated in the protest.

WASHINGTON — The problems do not get any easier as President Bush attends his final summit with leaders of industrialized democracies.

Disputes over global warming, worries about soaring oil prices and uncertainty about Iran and North Korea's nuclear ambitions pose daunting challenges for Bush when he sits down with presidents and prime ministers Monday.

There are less than 200 days left in his term, and Bush's dwindling presidency is a major factor hanging over the meetings involving leaders from Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy, Russia and Canada at a Group of Eight summit in Toyako, on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.

With Bush en route to Japan on a nonstop flight Saturday, there is a mix of high challenges and low expectations for the summit.

Foremost on the agenda is reaching a deal that would set targets for reducing the pollution that causes global warming. But few expect major headway or concessions from Bush. He insists on holding China and India, fast-growing economies and among the world's biggest polluters, to the same emission-reduction standards as older, developed economies.

Japan's prime minister, Yasuo Fukuda, would like to emerge with an agreement on 50 percent overall reductions in greenhouse gases by 2050. Some European countries and developing nations favor establishing targets for cutting emissions by 2020.

Michael A. Levy, director of energy security and climate change at the Council on Foreign Relations, a New York-based think tank, said he did not expect breakthroughs on global warming, in part because other G-8 members realize that Bush's days in office are winding down.

The Japanese, who are driving the agenda and favor strong emission-reduction targets, "acutely understand there is going to be a different American approach to climate change in a year," Levy said.

The United States was expected to push for political statements on government suppression in Myanmar; the increasing violence in Afghanistan from Taliban insurgents; the Middle East peace process; terrorism; and developments on nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran, including North Korea's recent destruction of a nuclear facility that had produced plutonium.

Surging global oil prices and slumping economies in most of the G-8 countries were also were expected to be discussed, although options for action seemed to be limited.

What is the G8?

The gathering was first set up in the 1970s with the five nations that were the world's undisputed economic powerhouses, all democracies: the United States, Britain, Japan, France and Germany. The annual meetings were expected to focus on global economic issues. Canada, Italy and Russia were added later, bringing the membership to eight.

>>Fast Facts

What is the G-8?

The gathering was first set up in the 1970s with the five nations that were the world's undisputed economic powerhouses, all democracies: the United States, Britain, Japan, France and Germany. The annual meetings were expected to focus on global economic issues. Canada, Italy and Russia were added later, bringing the membership to eight.

At G-8, expectations low 07/05/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 4:36pm]

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