Leading article: Grounds for optimism at Gleneagles

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The Independent Online

By the standards of past G8 meetings, this week's summit in Gleneagles must be considered a success. This was the first summit in which there was substantial representation from developing countries. Considering the nature of the main themes under discussion - Africa and climate change - it would have been outrageous not to invite them. And it will be harder to exclude representation from poorer countries from future G8 meetings. This is an achievement in itself.

As for what the summit actually produced, the results were mixed. The cancellation of debt for African nations was welcome, but ought to have gone much further. So should the pledges of aid. There was little progress on trade subsidies. But there is a danger of being too negative. The $50bn in aid announced for Africa marks a reversal in the pattern of the past two decades, in which cash flows to Africa have fallen amid concerns that it is wasted or stolen.

And on climate change, the summit certainly made progress. No new emissions targets were agreed upon and some have called the summit a failure. But it is important to bear in mind the actual agenda under discussion. The British Government, which chaired the meeting, got everything it wanted. There was an agreement on the science behind climate change. And the language of this agreement represents a shift by the US towards a recognition that global warming is a real phenomenon and that it is caused by human activity. The Gleneagles work programme, which will develop energy-saving technology, could also prove a useful contribution. But by far the most important agreement - and the summit's standout achievement - is the decision to conduct formal talks with developing countries such as China and India about their carbon emissions.

There will be three more important meetings this year: a summit on the United Nations' millennium goals on poverty in New York in September; world trade talks in Hong Kong in December; and a climate change conference at the end of the year in Montreal. This meeting in Gleneagles may not have made poverty history, or reversed global warming, but it has laid some of the groundwork. The momentum built up at this summit must be maintained.

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