Gordon Brown today warned Britain's G8 partners against a retreat into isolationism, and insisted that the looming threat to the global economy instead required a speeding up of the fight to tackle climate change and poverty.
Amid fears the credit crunch will cause the G8 to backpedal on pledges to cut carbon emissions and increase aid to poor countries by $50bn a year, the prime minister used an interview with the Guardian ahead of the G8 summit to stress the need for united action in the west to reduce dependency on fossil fuels and boost food production in developing countries.
"The world is suffering a triple challenge: of higher fuel prices, higher food prices and a credit crunch. My message to the G8 will be that instead of sidelining climate change and the development agenda, the present economic crisis means that instead of relaxing our efforts we have got to accelerate them. "This agenda is not just the key to the environment and reducing poverty, but the key to our economic future as well," Brown said.
After a year that has seen growth slow sharply in many G8 countries, including Britain, and oil prices double to $145 a barrel, he said the summit would be judged on whether it rolled back protectionism, supported projects for cleaner energy, and came up with blueprints for reducing global oil and food prices.
On the eve of his first G8 summit as prime minister, he said he would consider it to be a success if the G8 showed unity, gave strong backing to a new global free-trade deal, and pushed ahead on climate change and development. The prime minister said that the state of the global economy meant the summit would have echoes of those in the 1970s. "But in the 70s, many of the problems we faced were national, not global. The problems we have today are global and they require global solutions."
On climate change, the prime minister said he was hoping the G8 would make progress towards a new climate change deal in Copenhagen next year, agree to "turn the World Bank into an energy bank as well as a development bank", and show a "clear understanding of the importance of renewables to our energy and environmental future".
Britain believes that a stalling of progress on Africa in 2008 will make it impossible for the UN to hit its millennium development goals, set for 2015, but Brown said that fighting poverty was also in the best interests of the west. "Unless we help poor countries to become more prosperous through education, health and economic development, we will be piling up the problems of global inequality."
The UK is pressing the G8 to boost the number of health workers in poor countries, bankroll the expansion of education, and invest in higher farm production. "I'll be telling people that the worst possible thing would be to drop the development agenda because it holds the key to the economic challenge. If we don't produce enough agriculture, we are going to have food shortages, and Africa needs help to develop its agriculture. We can't solve the problems of food and fuel shortages unless developing countries are involved."
Christian Aid supported Brown's call for higher food production in developing countries, but said free trade had proved disastrous for many struggling nations. Oliver Pearce, author of a report released today by the development charity, said: "Food security will be high on the agenda when the G8 meets. Rich countries must accept that nothing less than a new, pro-poor agricultural revolution is needed if future shortages are to be avoided.
"Agricultural polices imposed on poor countries in the past few decades have had a ruinous effect. In return for trade and aid, they have been forced to remove protective tariffs from agricultural produce, reduce subsidies, and lift price controls."
Development charities blame the increase in land given over to biofuels for the food crisis, but the prime minister was noncommittal on the issue. "I feel there are good and bad biofuels," he said, in advance of the imminent publication of the government's Gallagher report into their impact...
♠ Posted by Emmanuel in Development at 7/07/2008 02:33:00 AMIn the run-up to his first G8 summit in Hokkaido, Japan, PM Brown is calling for the G8 to reaffirm the aid commitments it made during the 2005 Gleneagles summit. Regardless of your views about the efficacy of official development aid (ODA), however, it is curious that the United Kingdom has not exactly been particularly generous on the the aid disbursement front according to OECD statistics. As the most recent Development Assistance Committee (DAC) figures indicate, the UK's net ODA contribution fell by 29% in real terms from 2006 to 2007. You can argue that Brown wasn't the PM for the entirety of 2007, but still, he did hold the government's purse strings as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Somewhat obviously, the UK's ODA as a percentage of GNI fell over the same period. With the country's ODA/GNI for 2007 at 0.36% or about half the UN's target figure of 0.70%, let's just say Brown is not exactly in the best position to ask other G8 nations to loosen their purse strings. Ah well, here's what PM Brown has to say on this and other related matters care of the Guardian: