Rhein on Energy and Climate

BRIC contra G8?

The Foreign ministers of Brazil, China, India and Russia have met in Yekaterinburg on May 15-16 for what may have been a historic gathering. They discussed global issues, from the financial crisis to climate change, and decided to meet regularly, next time in September in New York at the margin of the UN general assembly, in order to coordinate their positions in international organisations.

The BRIC-Group constitutes a challenge to the G8 as a competing actor in world affairs, and in particularly to US leadership. Jointly, it has the power to do so. It represents 2.7 billion people, 40 percent of humanity, three times as many as the G8. Their combined GDP, expressed in purchasing power, is only half that of the G8 today, but by 2020 it is likely to have overtaken the G8.

From a global point of view this is a salutary development, which had to take place sooner or later. Competition is always sound, also in political affairs. The G8 has not invested enough in improving global governance; its bi-annual declarations sounded increasingly hollow.

More critical, it has not sufficiently cared about the interests of the poor countries; and its 1 billion wealthy citizens are not representative of the world population.

Russia has certainly been the driving force behind the new coalition. It is presently the only country on earth that combines membership of the two most powerful international groupings, G8 and BRIC. Russia can hardly be a member of both “clubs”. It will have to choose! It is likely to choose BRIC. G8 might therefore rapidly turn again into a G7, as it has been during the 1980`s.

Both groups should rapidly establish a productive working relationship . They have little choice but to work together and form a sort informal global governance. Jointly, they would be able to elaborate answers for some of the tough issues that humanity has to cope with in the coming decades, from nuclear proliferation to climate change and biodiversity.

Internally the new G 7 should re-define its rules and procedures. In fact, the G 7 is no more than a G 3 – EU, USA and Canada. The EU should be represented by its future Foreign “Minister” and the President of the European Council. That will be hard to swallow, but at some stage it will become inevitable. It is the EU that matters in global affairs and no longer individual members states. These must learn to better coordinate their positions internally so as to enable the EU make substantive proposals and develop a higher profile.

The G7 would then also be in better position to invite additional members, say Australia, Mexico, South Africa and Korea.

It is time for both groups to rise to the challenges of the 21st century and engineer a new international order, based on cooperation rather than confrontation. The earth has become to small for humanity to indulge in conflicts.

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