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Last update: 03.06.2014

G8 - the Group of Eight

Strength entails responsibility. The goal of the Group of Eight (G8) is to assume this responsibility jointly. The group comprises the United States, Japan, Germany, Great Britain, France, Italy, Canada and, since 1998, Russia. Since 1977, the EU has also been sending its own delegation to the G8 Summits. These meetings convening the heads of state and government of the seven leading industrialised countries and Russia started out as G6 in 1975 with the first meeting taking place in the Château de Rambouillet.

In terms of status, the G8 is not an international organisation with its own organs or a permanent secretariat, it is a purely informal forum to discuss global economic and foreign policy issues in a small group. Since its inception the G8 has come a long way from the character of a fireside chat. Several meetings are held every year at different levels during which the G8 countries coordinate common positions in a variety of policy areas.

In view of the violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity perpetrated by the Russian Federation, the heads of state and government of the G7 countries decided on 24 March 2014 not to attend the planned G8 Summit to be chaired by Russia (4-5 June 2014 in Sochi). This year’s meeting will instead take the form of a G7 Summit in Brussels on 4 and 5 June.

G8 activities in the field of environmental policy

The environment has long been an integral part of the G8 policy agenda. The focus has traditionally been on current issues such as climate policy, biodiversity, forest protection, marine protection and the fight against environmental crime, but in particular on current economically relevant topics.

A milestone in the G8's environmental policy was the initiative adopted in Genoa in 2001 and successfully implemented in the following years to make trade and environment a key topic for the WTO trade talks in Doha.

Climate protection was made a priority area for the first time at the 2005 G8 Summit in Gleneagles, Scotland. As a result the heads of state and government adopted a plan of action on climate change, clean energy and sustainable development. The German G8 Presidency in 2007 was instrumental in laying the foundation for a long-term global climate protection target. It aims at reducing global greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent by 2050. A second major success was the drawing up of a road map to bring about a UN climate agreement.

Biodiversity was another topic which was put on the G8 agenda for the first time during the German Presidency. The "Potsdam Initiative – Biological Diversity 2010" set in motion specific activities concerning science, industry, trade, funding and marine protection. When the G8 met in Heiligendamm, Germany also invited the major newly industrialising countries China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa - the so-called G8+5 states - for the first time to a G8 Summit.

As part of the "Heiligendamm process" the G8 and the newly industrialising countries decided to have a particularly close cooperation in several areas such as energy efficiency. In 2009 during the Italian G8 Presidency the year 1990 was incorporated into the long-term global climate protection target as the reference year. Furthermore, the G8 states acknowledged the necessity to limit global warming to 2°C. The G8 continues to support the targets and measures of international climate policy, as was the case at the most recent G8 summit in Camp David on 18/19 May 2012.

In addition to the annual summits of the heads of state and government, the environment ministers of the G8 met at irregular intervals over the past years to discuss key environmental topics. Moreover, between 2005 and 2008 meetings of energy and environment ministers of the 20 major energy-consuming countries and the International Energy Agency took place (the so-called Gleneagles Dialogue).

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