Angela Merkel was under pressure to justify Germany's nuclear phase-out policy at a summit of G8 leaders which kicked off in northern Japan on Monday after US officials praised atomic energy as environmentally friendly. More use of nuclear, they argue, could lead the way away from the dependence on oil, gas and coal.
Jim Connaughton, US President George W. Bush's environmental aide, said nuclear power plants were "a litmus test for the seriousness" of countries to tackle climate change, criticizing an abandonment of nuclear energy in the fight against global warming as wrong. "A country that has the ability to responsibly use nuclear energy, should, in my view, do that," Connaughton said.
Merkel however stuck to her position, saying she didn't think nuclear energy played a decisive role in the battle against climate change. She reiterated Germany's commitment to shutting down all its nuclear power plants by 2020 as laid down in the ruling left-right government coalition agreement. The policy dates back to a decision by former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's government which shared power with the Green Party. Germany is the only country in the G8 to have a nuclear phase-out policy.
Soaring food and oil prices and their impact on the world economy are high on the agenda at the world's eight leading industrialized powers – America, Canada, Italy, Japan, Russia, France, Britain and Germany – gather for their annual meeting.
Merkel pushed for more transparency in energy markets and said it was important to balance supply and demand as runaway oil prices threaten the growth of economies around the world.
"We have to look at different ways to fight high oil prices," Merkel told a news conference in Toyako.
Spiraling food prices, which have led to riots and unrest in poor countries, will also dominate the G8 summit. The German chancellor also said the production of biofuels should not hamper global food production in the light of studies that show the West's growing appetite for biofuels is partly responsible fort the climb in food prices.
The heads of the G8 will be joined at talks on Wednesday by leaders of the big emerging economies including China and India, whose rising demand has been cited as one reason for the fuel price surge.