GLENEAGLES, Scotland — British Prime Minister Tony Blair closed the Group of Eight summit yesterday by announcing a commitment to double aid to Africa to $50 billion annually by 2010 and saying he brought the U.S. around to the European stance on global warming.
Mr. Blair ended the G-8 summit an hour early so he could return to London and manage his government’s response to Thursday’s terrorist attack that killed at least 50 and injured more than 700. He offered a contrast to what was accomplished at the summit and terrorism.
“All of this does not change the world,” Mr. Blair said. “It is a beginning, not an end. None of it today will match the same ghastly impact of terror. But it has a pride, a hope, a humanity at its heart.”
The G-8 also agreed to spend $3 billion annually over the next three years to help facilitate the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians.
“It’s essential that we build the infrastructure of a state on the Palestinian side,” Mr. Blair said.
Mr. Blair conceded that he didn’t get everything environmentalists and Africa advocates wanted, but defended passionately what he did achieve.
“It is in the nature of politics that you don’t achieve absolutely everything you want to achieve, but I believe we have made very substantial progress, indeed,” Mr. Blair said.
The prime minister opened the three-day conference with the leaders of the United States,, France, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia determined to persuade the world’s richest nations to double aid to Africa by 2010 and cancel the debt of many of the continent’s poorest nations.
“We do not by the communique make poverty history,” Mr. Blair said, referring to the name of the international group that has drawn considerable attention to the plight of Africa. “But we do show how it can be done, and this policy will do it.”
Faryar Shirzad, the Bush administration’s lead diplomat for the summit, described the conference as “a huge success, both for the prime minister, for the G-8, as well as for the president.”
“We were very pleased with the meetings themselves; we’re very pleased with the substantive agenda; and we’re pleased with the documents that were generated as a result of the meeting,” Mr. Shirzad said.
Many advocates for African aid, however, complained that the additional money will not flow quickly enough to the blighted continent and the leaders did not come to an agreement on when to end tariffs that limit the agricultural exports of many African countries.
“More aid is a good thing, but it is still too little too late, and much of it is not new money,” said Amanda Sserumaga, the Ugandan country director for ActionAid. “Fifty million children will die before the aid is delivered in 2010.”
Responding to criticism that the aid commitments are insufficient, Mr. Blair expressed exasperation and pointed out that the art of politics is “getting things done step by step.”
“Come on,” he said. “This is progress.”
Mr. Blair had an ally in his optimistic view in Irish activist/rock singers Bono and Bob Geldof, who organized the global Live 8 concerts last weekend intended to pressure the G-8 to increase aid to Africa.
“This has been the most important summit there ever has been for Africa,” Mr. Geldof said. “They got more out of the last three days than they ever had in any previous summit.”
U2’s Bono said “a mountain has been climbed” and “it’s worth it to stop and look down at the valley from which we came.”
“If an Irish rock star is allowed to quote Winston Churchill, I would say this is not the end of extreme poverty, but it is the beginning of the end,” Bono said.
Mr. Blair also conceded that he was never going to persuade the United States to adhere to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol that enforces dramatic restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions, a fact that has irritated the European powers for years.
“We were never going to be able to bridge the disagreement over Kyoto or get to more targets,” Mr. Blair said, explaining that he is a “pragmatic” politician. “That was never going to happen and I have to be very blunt with you about that.”
But Mr. Blair said his ability to get President Bush to agree in principle that human activity is a “significant factor” in global warming brings the U.S. back to the climate conversation.
“If we can’t have America as part of the dialogue, there is no possibility of solving this issue,” Mr. Blair said. “What we have put in place is a pathway to a new dialogue when Kyoto expires in 2012 on how we confront this problem. That, I think, is something to be proud of.”
Environmental groups that have descended upon this exclusive golf resort in the foothills of the Scottish Highlands were not impressed with Mr. Blair’s diplomacy.
“This is a very disappointing finale,” said Tony Juniper, vice chairman of Friends of the Earth International. “The G-8 have delivered nothing new here and the text conveys no sense of the scale or urgency of the challenge. Bush appears to have effectively stalled all progress.”
The G-8 leaders also agreed to fight malaria in Africa — for which the Bush administration has pledged $1.2 billion — and train 20,000 African troops to help keep the peace in warring countries and in light of the attacks in London “resolved to intensify our work on counterterrorism.”