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Greens slam G8 over climate change, nuclear boost


July 16, 2006

By Louis Charbonneau

Environmental advocacy groups accused the Group of Eight industrial nations on Sunday of failing to take seriously the problems of climate change and the dangers of nuclear energy.

At a summit in St. Petersburg, the leaders of the G8 approved a statement that acknowledged divisions among the world's top economies on promoting nuclear energy and tackling climate change.

But the statement said those who favour nuclear energy -- six of the eight G8 members -- see it as key to providing energy security amid booming global demand and as a clean form of power that can help slow dangerous global warming.

The G8 members are the United States, Russia, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan.

Tobias Muenchmeyer, an analyst at anti-nuclear environmental group Greenpeace, said acknowledgement of a split did not change the fact that the statement is strongly pro-nuclear.

He said that apart from Germany and Italy, "Bush and Putin and the rest are committed to expanding nuclear technology that at the same time gives countries the nuclear weapons option."

German governments officials said the text was acceptable to Berlin, which has committed to an early phase-out of nuclear energy by the early 2020s, because it emphasised the need to ensure nuclear power plants are safely run.

Nuclear energy, which is making a comeback worldwide, especially in Asia, produces few greenhouse gases and has been hailed by some environmentalists as a good way of protecting the climate while meeting growing demand for electricity.

Critics, however, say there is no good solution for the storage of dangerous nuclear waste. They also say nuclear power plants are vulnerable to terrorist attacks and result in an increased risk of nuclear weapons proliferation.


Alice Slater, president of the GRACE Policy Institute, said it was time to focus on "green" renewable sources of energy, namely solar, wind and hydro power that can stop the climate from changing for the worse.

"People don't get told the story that these things are possible, that the sun, water and wind can work," Slater told Reuters. She pointed to the example of Iceland, which she said has pledged to rely 100 percent on renewable energy by 2050.

Green groups want the G8 leaders to unanimously back the Kyoto Protocol, an agreement on cutting emissions of the "greenhouse gases" blamed for global warming.

It has been hampered by the fact that U.S. President George W. Bush withdrew support for the protocol in 2001.

As expected, the G8 did not back the protocol. Instead it said only "those of us committed to making the Kyoto protocol a success underline the importance we attach to it".

Graham Saul at Oil Change International said the G8 statement predicted a massive increase in demand for fossil fuels over the next quarter century.

"The G8 can't fight climate change and subsidise an expansion of fossil fuels at the same time. This is a complete contradiction and a dramatic failure of leadership on the part of the G8," Saul said.

Saul and other environmentalists' views appeared to get some support from French President Jacques Chirac, who urged G8 members to get serious about protecting the planet.

"We cannot talk about energy security while there is no progress on climate change. Mankind is dancing on the edge of a volcano," Chirac said at the St Petersburg meeting of world leaders in the G8 group of nations.

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