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News Analysis: Is the G8 summit likely to be a missed opportunity for change?

The luxurious Gleneagles Hotel is the setting for the G8 Summit, a gathering of the most powerful nations in the world to discuss the most pressing issues of the day.

But it is also a meeting place for activists.

Like previous G8 summits, the gathering has attracted a storm of protests from environmentalists, keen to raise awareness on a whole range of issues from recycling to world peace.

The main issues for this year which takes place between July 6-8 are Africa and climate change; the latter is described by Prime Minister Tony Blair as "probably, long-term, the most important issue we face as a global community."

And it's not a lost irony that the G8 Summit itself (with its 1,200 delegates and 3,000 media) will have an environmental impact in terms of carbon emissions generated. Many scientists believe that emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, has helped in increasing global temperatures.

So what measures will be taken?

"We are working closely with our partners and contractors to ensure we minimise the environmental impacts of the Summit and make the G8 Summit as environmentally sustainable as possible," says Ian Pearson, Foreign Office Minister with responsibility for the G8.

Recycling measures taken at the Summit include the FCO working with production company Jack Morton to establish the 3Rs policy - Reduce, Recycle, Reuse.

The government department is also encouraging and facilitating recycling at Gleneagles Hotel and is working with the local council to ensure that the contents are disposed of correctly.

A clean, green image is clearly a priority, as uncovered by an internal government memo leaked to the Sunday Herald newspaper.

The memo was circulated by a senior civil servant to the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the Foreign and Commonwealth Offices and Number 10 Downing Street, entitled "Making the G8 Summit Sustainable".

In it, UK environment secretary Margaret Beckett called for the banning of plastic bottles, prominent displays of recycling bins and solar panels on roofs.

Assessments have shown that the total carbon dioxide emissions associated with the G8 Presidency (emitted through air travel, local transport and accommodation at meetings) will amount to 4,000 tonnes CO2, which is roughly equivalent to the emissions generated by the electricity and gas used in 800 average homes over a year.

To offset this, the Government is donating £50,000 to projects that will keep as much carbon dioxide out of the air as the Summit is putting in.

The environmental projects funded include one to reduce the pollution created in poor people's homes in Cape Town, South Africa.

The homes will get solar water heaters, ceiling insulation and energy-efficient light bulbs.

According to Energy for Sustainable Development (ESD), hired by the Government to calculate the level of carbon emissions at the Summit, the measures will prevent 5,600 tonnes of carbon dioxide from being emitted each year.

There were also proposals that when the leaders of the eight most powerful nations come to Perthshire, they should tread on a 'zero-carbon red carpet' and journalists who cover the event should eat at a 'zero-carbon cafe.'

Unfortunately, the memo does not explain what these intriguing zero-carbon options actually are.

Not surprisingly, the plans have been ridiculed by environmental campaigners as mere window dressing, according to Kirstie Shirra of the World Development Movement.

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