G20 Issues Strong Statement On Climate Change

As you may know from earlier coverage, the powerful G20 meeting this weekend in Brisbane didn’t go exactly the way its Australian planners intended when they drew up the agenda. However, it seems to have worked out as well as could be expected for the environment after all, considering the other glitches.

G20 Brisbane 2014 logoThe world leaders in attendance respectfully flouted Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s original intention of bypassing the urgent topic of climate change in favor of a meeting focused on economic issues and policies. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that “a clear majority of leaders—including US president Barack Obama—argued for stronger language in the communique on climate change.”

Other topics, such as black money draining the developing economy of India, gained recognition as well.

Here’s what the G20 finally emerged with about climate:

“We support strong and effective action to address climate change. Consistent with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its agreed outcomes, our actions will support sustainable development, economic growth, and certainty for business and investment. We will work together to adopt successfully a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the UNFCCC that is applicable to all parties at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris in 2015. We encourage parties that are ready to communicate their intended nationally determined contributions well in advance of COP21 (by the first quarter of 2015 for those parties ready to do so). We reaffirm our support for mobilising finance for adaptation and mitigation, such as the Green Climate Fund.”

The first sentence of this climate change section is the most important: “We support strong and effective action to address climate change.” In the months and years before the conference, national climate priorities seemed helter-skelter, with some nations like Germany quite quickly and emphatically turning to renewable energy, while others (Australia, Poland) still hoped to capitalize on their mountains of coal and other finite, environmentally toxic fossil fuels. Notably, Tony Abbott articulated the latter concerns.

Not that fossil fuels have become unnecessary or immediately unwanted—but the Brisbane pledge underlines a general world sentiment to slow their use, within the contexts of sustainable development, economic growth, and financial security. Conservation and reduction have grown on nations and major fossil energy producers individually as they digested the most recent climate reports and began individual actions to address climate mitigation and adaptation. Stranded assets can’t really be considered assets any more.

Third, the communique expresses the dedication of all participating nations to working together to produce a legally binding and universally acceptable agreement on climate change by the close of the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris in 2015. Some, including fervent climate change deniers in the US, Australia, and a few other countries, doubt the utility or possibility of achieving this goal. During the next few weeks in Lima, the UNFCCC will be working on drafts relevant to the Paris accord.

The G20 also urged nations to ante up early and appropriately into the Green Climate Fund pot and similar capital instruments from now through the first several months of 2015. COP20 in Peru is of course a likely milestone. Later contributions are expected by the Paris meeting and as needed thereafter.

Access the entire communique here.

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