The Oxfam G8 Big Heads display balloons representing the amount of carbon their countries emit per capita. Note who's floating. Credit: Emily Subden/ Oxfam
The G8 failed to address global poverty, climate change and the worldwide food crisis.

Pressure piled on the UN now as G8 leaders fail to rise to the challenge of a world in crisis

The 2008 G8 Summit in Japan failed to tackle the grievous problems facing the world that are hitting poor people first and hardest, said international agency Oxfam today at the summit’s end.

Oxfam says that leadership must now be shown at key UN meetings on poverty in September and on climate in December.

Oxfam International Executive Director Jeremy Hobbs said, “Never was more urgent action needed by the G8 than this week in Japan. Accelerated climate change, runaway food prices and growing poverty are depriving millions of people of their livelihoods and, in many cases, their very lives.

“Several governments championed steps to tackle the crucial issues sitting on the G8 agenda, but in the end this summit did not deliver the breakthroughs that are so urgently needed. The consensus reached was shallow at best, especially on climate.

“The search for deeper agreement among world powers does not end here. It will shape the agenda during Italy’s presidency. However millions of people living in poverty can ill afford another year without bold and united leadership.”

On climate change...

The G8 endorsed among other things a commitment to halve global carbon emissions by 2050 – but with no agreed baseline year or mid-term targets – and a $6bn pledge to the World Bank for climate investment funds that will come out of existing aid budgets.

Antonio Hill, Oxfam’s climate change policy spokesperson, said: “At this rate, by 2050 the world will be cooked and the G8 leaders will be long forgotten. The G8’s endorsement of a tepid ‘50 by 50’ climate goal leaves us with a 50/50 chance of a climate meltdown. We need 80% cuts of 1990 levels by 2050 and emissions to peak and start falling by 2015.

“The G8’s announcement on 2050 is just another stalling tactic that does nothing to lower the risk faced by millions of poor people right now. Taking climate change funds out of aid budgets – with overall aid going down – is patently unfair. Every aid dollar diverted to climate adaptation is one dollar less for medicines and schoolbooks.”

On the food crisis

The G8 promised to reverse the decline in aid to agriculture – but without any numbers – and to support the UN’s plans to tackle the crisis. It also pledged to ensure that biofuels would be produced in a way that would be compatible with food security and to accelerate the development of second-generation biofuels.

Oxfam Executive Director Jeremy Hobbs said, “The G8 leaders do not seem to get it. The facts are clear. Rich country biofuels are a major cause of the global food crisis at this moment, yet the leaders barely mentioned them and blithely continue to burn food in their cars. It’s like discussing the Titanic but failing to talk about the iceberg.”

On Africa and development aid

The G8 reaffirmed previous promised to provide $50bn in new assistance, half to Africa, by 2010 – although it offered no details on who would do what to reverse the decline in aid since 2006. It also repeated the promise it made 12 months ago to spend $60bn for health – however, the timing was not specified and the clarity of purpose remained vague.

Oxfam International chief policy adviser at the G8, Max Lawson, said: “The G8 leaders’ clumsy attempt to backtrack on their aid promises has backfired. With two years to go to the 2010 deadline, G8 leaders now have to deliver the $50 billion in new assistance they pledged at Gleneagles. The world takes these promises seriously even if the G8 leaders do not.”

Charles Abani, Southern Africa Regional Director for Oxfam International, said: “The poor of Africa will find little solace in the G8’s evasion tactics. Only when they come through with the $25 billion for Africa will we have cause to celebrate. The money is a pittance for the G8, but for poor Africans it could mean a future with lifesaving medicines and the chance to learn to read and write.”

On current trends

Oxfam said the G8 will fall $30 billion short of the 2010 promise, which could cost as many as five million lives, most of them among the 30,000 children who die each day from causes related to extreme poverty.

“The G8 failed to rise to the challenge of a world in crisis, a world that is demanding serious action. We must see renewed leadership in September at the UN Emergency Summit on Poverty and in December in Poland at the vital UN climate talks,” Hobbs said.

Watch the video: the Oxfam Big Heads say "Sayonara" from Japan.

Learn more

Climate change campaign

Global food crisis