The world’s most powerful leaders gathered in Italy yesterday on the eve of a G8 summit aimed at finding common ground on how to tackle the global economic crisis, climate change and turmoil in Iran.
“Everything is ready, I am totally serene,” Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi told the Italian press as he prepared to welcome leaders of the G8 industrialized nations and a host of emerging powers to the city of L’Aquila, devastated in April by an earthquake which killed nearly 300.
The build-up to the three-day summit has been marred both by increasingly lurid reports about Berlusconi’s private life and also by safety fears in L’Aquila, north east of Rome, where aftershocks are still being felt.
Officials have drawn up plans to evacuate the leaders in the event of a tremor measuring over four points on the Richter scale.
Only last Friday, a 4.1 magnitude quake struck just 1km from the military academy where the gathering is to take place.
The G8 summit traditionally brings together leaders of the eight most industrialized nations — Italy, the US, Canada, Russia, Japan, Britain, France and Germany.
But much of the discussion over the course of the week will be expanded to include emerging powers such as China, India and Brazil.
Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) is among the leaders who have already arrived and others were expected to land throughout the day yesterday. US President Barack Obama will arrive this morning at the end of a trip to Moscow.
The bulk of the summit is likely to focus on efforts to shore up the global economy since London hosted a G20 summit in April.
At the G20 summit in London, Obama and his peers agreed to commit US$1 trillion to the IMF and other global bodies to help struggling economies.
“It’s a time when the leaders can get together and assess where they are in the economic recovery effort, what further steps need to be taken to restore the balance of economic growth, expand and restore exports, and create jobs,” senior White House official Michael Froman said in a pre-summit briefing.
In their own mini summit on Monday designed to coordinate their position in L’Aquila, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy said they would soon put forward proposals for talks to address the volatility of the oil market.
Sarkozy said the world could no longer tolerate “yo-yo” fluctuations, while Brown said that it was unacceptable that the world’s “most important commodity” was also “among the most volatile and unstable.”
On climate change, Sarkozy and Brown said that they would press their G8 partners to redouble efforts toward a deal on cutting greenhouse gas emissions at the Copenhagen conference in December.
The G8 has prepared a draft communique calling on global emissions to peak by 2020 and then be “substantially reduced” to cap the rise in temperatures to 2ºC over pre-industrial levels.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who will also be in L’Aquila, plans to press the G8 to live up to previous pledges on climate change and aid for Africa, telling journalists “the time for good rhetoric and half measures is over.”
A report in the Financial Times, the G8 will commit US$12 billion over three years for agricultural development in the developing world with the US and Japan stumping up most of the cash.