The G8: An exercise in escapism, concludes ActionAid

The G8 meeting has proved to be nothing but an exercise in escapism from responsibilities towards the world and its poor.

G8 leaders have failed to put on the table any viable proposal and binding commitment to cut carbon emissions, finance adaptation to global warming, or ensure access to low carbon technology for sustained progress in developing countries. They have also stalled on their aid promises.

John Samuel, ActionAid Asia Director said:

"The G8 declaration is pure window dressing, wishy-washy exuberance and vague ambiguities. It is nothing but an exercise in escapism and non-commitment on the major issues confronting the majority of the world's poor.

"By recycling already broken promises, G8 leaders have shown that they lack a sense of imagination and political will to change the world, rather they have clubbed together to serve their own interests."

With the world facing food and fuel crises, the G8 has failed to deliver a meaningful action plan and ActionAid is appalled that the role of biofuels in perpetuating food security has not been acted upon.

How did they do? An analysis of the G8's outcomes

Africa: uninspiring

- Existing policies and aid pledges have been heavily recycled this year.

- Last year's G8 pledge of US$60bn for health now has a timescale (five years), but there is still no indication of who will pay up and exactly when.

- Agriculture proposals focus on commercial farming and largely ignore the potential of smallholder production and the role of women as Africa's main small-scale food producers.

Food and hunger: unrepentant

- Food aid and other emergency measures so far announced only address the extremes of hunger, not the food insecurity facing hundreds of millions of people.

- Astonishingly, no recognition of the role of biofuels in the food price crisis. No action against the EU and US targets and subsidies that have encouraged their use.

- Lip-service to smallholders; but investment in agriculture, for the G8, still means investment in high-tech, industrial agriculture.

- Misplaced faith in trade liberalisation. Ill-conceived liberalisation is part of the problem: it brings in cheap food but in many countries it has destroyed local agriculture.

Climate change: untargeted

- Support for 50% global emission cuts by 2050, but no indication of what the G8's share of this might be, and no commitment to action until India and China agree to curb their emissions. Confusion over the extremely contentious issue of the baseline year for emission cuts, with the Japanese suggesting 2008 and the Europeans saying 1990.

- No mid-term targets, though the G8 admits they are needed. The Bali target of 25-40% reductions by 2020, supported by NGOs and the "+5" group (Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa), is not mentioned.

- G8 supports 'second generation' biofuels despite evidence (from ActionAid and others) that even these non-food crops are taking land out of food production and causing hunger.

- Misplaced enthusiasm for the Climate Investment Funds as a way of promoting adaptation and clean technology. The most vulnerable countries are under-represented in the funds' management. The funds will provide much of their money as loans, not grants. And all this counts towards the G8's aid targets, instead of being additional.