G20: climate backslide
28 June 2010
The latest G20 meeting has ended with only a few brief words about the green economy and a recycled statement on fossil fuel subsidies. It’s not enough. Sustainable economic recovery will need serious commitments on climate change, climate finance and support for low-carbon fuels.
“World leaders are still painting the economy in black and white. But the 21st century economy must include green.”
That’s how WWF’s Global Climate Initiative leader Kim Carstensen summed up last weekend’s frustrating G20 meeting in Canada.
The greenest thing about the G20 is the way it recycles old commitments. This summit could have been the beginning of real action towards a clean, efficient and resilient economy, but all we got were some brief platitudes about green recovery.
For example, reforming fossil fuel subsidies, which means redirecting funds away from inefficient and polluting energy like coal, oil and gas and towards greener renewables. Seems like an obvious win-win solution for the environment and the economy.
Indeed, at last year’s Pittsburgh G20 summit, leaders agreed to “rationalise and phase out over the medium term inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption”. Fossil fuel subsidies account for more than US$500 billion a year globally.
We’d been concerned the G20 might back down on that commitment this year, so we’re encouraged that the issue is still on their radar. But the leaders failed to take the next step to show their global ambition and agree a clear timeline to achieve what they promise.
On a brighter note, India have translated talk into action, announcing a phase-out of subsidies on petrol and reviewing subsidies on diesel and other fossil fuels.
No agreement on financial transaction tax (FTT)
The G20 also did not agree any initiatives to help provide funds to meet the cost of climate change action in the poorest countries.
The move by German Chancellor Merkel and French President Sarkozy to advance the discussion on financial transaction taxes (FTTs – referred to by some people as the ‘Robin Hood Tax’) was shoved aside by the G20.
If FTTs were adopted globally, they could generate much needed finance for development and environmental issues while forking out for the economy.
G20 leaders say they are the premier forum for international economic cooperation – so they need to get serious and prove this.
We have to say, Canada played a highly unhelpful role as hosts of the summit. They consistently ignored calls from world leaders to allocate time for meaningful discussion of climate change.
In the end the G20 missed an opportunity to become a relevant global player on climate and energy. South Korea has a big gap to fill at the next G20 summit in November.
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