German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as host, has made "growth and responsibility" the theme of this year's summit. Speaking in Heiligendamm on June 6 as she greeted U.S. President George W. Bush, Merkel said that sense of responsibility should extend to global trade and foreign policy.
"I think the signal that should come out of this G8 summit is that we should give globalization a human face by fighting poverty, guaranteeing the freedom of investments and keeping in sight the social dimension of globalization, promoting world trade, and we should also think about how we can contain international conflicts together," she said.
Those issues are up for discussion as the summit opens today.Successor To Kyoto
But, without a doubt, the key topic garnering the most attention is climate change and what to do once the Kyoto Protocol on cutting greenhouse-gas emissions expires in 2012.
Ahead of the meeting, Germany said it wanted to use the Heiligendamm summit to win a commitment from the major industrialized powers to reduce greenhouse emissions by 20 percent, by the year 2020, from their 1990 levels.
In the longer term, Merkel and the EU as a whole are aiming for a 50 percent cut, by 2050. But no such breakthrough is expected today.Signs Of U.S. Change
The United States, which has not ratified the original Kyoto Protocol, remains opposed to setting binding emissions targets.
Yet Washington says it recognizes that action on global warming is needed and it has offered some counterproposals.
As Alexander Bradshaw, scientific director of Germany's Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics, told RFE/RL correspondent Irina Lagunina in Heiligendamm, that is signficant and should be welcomed.
"We have to remember that President Bush has gone a long way down a road which none of us expected him to take two or three years ago," Bradshaw said. "He is beginning to accept that there is a climate problem, that CO2 [carbon-dioxide] emissions must be reduced, and the collectively the nations of the world, in particular the industrial nations, but also the emerging industrial nations, must take action."
The Bush administration says it wants to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions through the use of new technology.Bush Appeals To China, India
And it wants joint action on the question by the world's top polluters, including developing nations China and India -- which were not included in the Kyoto Protocol reductions.
Merkel welcomed Bush to the summit on June 6 (AFP)
Bush reinforced that point today, as he spoke to journalists after the start of the summit.
"Nothing's going to happen in terms of substantial reductions [in greenhouse gases] unless China and India participate," he said. "And so, it is our role to serve as a bridge between people who've got one point of view about how to solve greenhouse gases and about how to get the developing nations, such as China, at the table."
Already, China, India, and the United States alone account for more than half of the world's greenhouse-gas emissions.
And as he arrived for the summit in Heiligendamm on June 6, Bush told Chancellor Merkel that the U.S. administration shared the goal of eventually drafting a post-Kyoto agreement.
"I also come with a strong desire to work with you [Merkel] on a post-Kyoto agreement about how we can achieve major objectives," he said. "One, of course, is the reduction of greenhouse gases. Another is to become more energy independent, in our case, from crude oil from parts of the world where we have got some friends and, sometimes, we don't have friends."
Outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair told reporters this morning he remained optimistic that some kind of commitment on climate change could be obtained at the summit.
(RFE/RL's Russian Service correspondent Irina Lagunina contributed to this article from Heiligendamm)