Climate change makes it to the G20 communique

Climate change finally made it to the G20 summit’s communique despite the reluctance of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott who insisted during the sessions that coal will power economic growth for the next decade.

PM Tony Abbott poses with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Barack Obama at the G20 Summit.

PM Tony Abbott poses with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Barack Obama at the G20 Summit.

After so much wrangling on climate change, Abbott had to bow to the pressure of G20 leaders who pledged commitment to reduce carbon emissions in order to avert impending catastrophe brought about by climate change.

G20 nations concluded the summit with a pledge to commit strong action on climate change and to encourage both developed and developing nations to do their share in cutting dirty carbon emissions.

Protesters occupied the streets in Brisbane to push Australia, the host country, to include climate change on the agenda. Several conservation groups around the nation had also pushed for a petition to include the subject in the G20 discussions.

US President Barack Obama vigorously put pressure on Abbott. Obama delivered a speech on the sidelines of the G20 summit on Saturday, stressing the need for all countries to take strong action on climate change. He also confirmed the $3bn US pledge to the UN Green Global Fund (GCF)

Prior to the summit, the US and China announced a historic deal on carbon emissions cut.

G20 plenary session (Photo:G20.org)

G20 plenary session (Photo:G20.org)

The landmark agreement, jointly announced in Beijing, includes new targets for carbon emissions cuts of 26 to 28 percent from the US by 2025, and a first-ever commitment by China to stop its emissions from growing by 2030. China will look to increase the non-fossil fuel share of all energy to around 20 per cent by 2030.

China and the US are the two biggest emitters of carbon, taking the first and second top spots, respectively, and the announcement was welcomed worldwide. Observers said the deal could set a momentum for other countries to agree on mandatory carbon emission cuts.

The two countries emit around 45 per cent of the world’s carbon dioxide, and the deal could be the key to ensuring that a global deal on reducing emissions after 2020 is reached in Paris next year.

Rio Tinto chief executive Sam Walsh reacted to the agreement saying he was “excited” and  that Australia needs to keep in step with what was going on elsewhere in the world. “Obviously, they have a vision of what they can achieve over the next 10 years and it’s important that Australia play its part in this,” he told the ABC’s 7.30 program.

Meanwhile, Australia’s climate target is five per cent cut in carbon emissions by 2020 (compared to 1990 levels), or up to 25 per cent by 2020 if other legally binding cuts are agreed.

Pres. Barack Obama and PM Xi Jinping drink wine after striking a deal on carbon cuts. (Photo: AP)

Pres. Barack Obama and PM Xi Jinping drink wine after striking a deal on carbon cuts. (Photo: AP)

While the US earmarked $3bn to the GCF, Japan has announced plans to give up to $1.5 billion. France and Germany also pledged to contribute $1 billion each, according to reports.

Christiana Figueres, the head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), has called for an initial capitalisation of $10 billion by the end of the year.

The GCF will hold its High-Level Pledging Conference in Berlin, Germany on Nov. 20. The conference is open to all governments interested in making a financial contribution to the GCF. “It a great opportunity for countries to show leadership in tackling one of the greatest threats to humankind,” said Ms. Héla Cheikhrouhou, Executive Director of the Fund. “Each dollar invested in the Fund will trigger a multiplier effect across private and public investments in the developing world,” she further explained.

Obama reiterated the fund would help vulnerable communities with early warning systems, stronger defences against storm surges and climate-resilient infrastructure, while supporting farmers to plant more durable crops.

Abbott has not committed  any amount to the fund. “We are all going to approach this in our own way obviously,” Abbott said. “And there’s a range of funds which are there – and the fund in question is certainly one of them.”

Australian negotiators at the G20 summit have argued against including a call for contributions to the fund in the final communique.

In conclusion to the G20 summit, Abbott delivered a final speech seconded the pledge to support strong and effective action to address climate change consistent with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its agreed outcomes.

We will support sustainable development, economic growth, and certainty for business and investment. He also commit to work with G20 leaders to 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.

G20 Leaders’ Communiqué, Climate Change item No. 19
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G20 People’s Summit planned for Brisbane

An alternative G20 People’s Summit led by an indigenous people’s group will be held separately in Brisbane in response to the Coalition Government’s exclusion of climate change from the G20 Summit 2014 agenda. The three-day People’s Summit will take place on Nov. 12-14, ahead of the G20 leaders summit on Nov. 15-16.

While Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott will welcome delegations of the G20 for talks on global economic issues and cooperation, climate activists and  civic groups will take to the streets and other venues in Brisbane to highlight what is missing in the leaders’ summit agenda.

Trade Ministers from  the G20 member countries and invited guests, along with representatives of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, World Bank Group and World Trade Organization in Sydney,19 July 2014 (Photo: DFAT)

The Brisbane Community Action Network – G20 (BrisCAN–G20) was created to question the policies enshrined in the free market ideologies of the G20. BrisCAN-G20 wants “to reframe public G20 discourse around issues that impact people, communities and environment; issues that are not addressed or have been ridden roughshod over by the G20 to date.”

Abbott argued that G20 is an economic summit, not a climate summit. He stands by his word, ignoring his disappointed European counterparts and US President Barack Obama.

In September this year, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hosted the UN Climate Summit in New York, but Abbott did not show. Managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Christine Lagarde, later noted that climate change should be discussed during the G20 Summit in Brisbane, but Abbott said the G20 is meant to focus primarily on economic growth. He said other issues would only clutter the issue and distract from the summit’s focus. Obama’s international adviser, Caroline Atkinson, also expressed disappointment and was reported to have said, “the idea that Abbott is preventing a discussion on climate change is laughable.”

List of leaders attending the G20 Summit 2014.

Abbott will be meeting three UN Climate Summit absentees, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, India Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

In preparation for the leaders’ summit, Abbott has been reportedly making phone calls to leaders to rally support for the G20 agenda.

The NY summit concluded with a modest target. The EU suggested it would agree to bigger cuts to emissions, 40 per cent by 2030 on 1990 levels, although other countries aim to keep their existing goals.

Abbott is a self-confessed climate sceptic. He already scrapped the carbon tax, and the nation’s renewable energy target is under threat. For Abbott and the rest of his Coalition Government, policies on mitigating climate change can only put a “handbrake on the economy”. The carbon tax, he says, pressures businesses with extra costs, and thus any climate-related issues can significantly discourage production.

BrisCAN-G20 leades the alternative people's summit in time of the G20 Summit 2014 in Brisbane. (Photo: Supplied)

BrisCAN-G20 will stage Visioning Another World: The G20 Peoples Summit, a three-day festival packed with events. Programs include conversations, symposiums, creative activities, cultural performances, education, and peaceful demonstrations. It will take place in various locations in Brisbane, aiming to bring together local and international thinkers to collaborate on broad themes such as the economy, growth vs sustainability, environment, climate change, earth rights, dispossession decolonisation, and other issues of social justice. BrisCAN–G20 is concerned about social and economic disparities perpetuated by G20 and the systems it represents.

Various groups and NGOs will join the summit including the Friends of the Earth, OXFAM,  National Congress of Australia’s First People, International Trade Union Confederation, Australian Greens and Palm Island Community.

Church Communities call for stewardship

Church groups have also been pressing for environment to be included in the G20 summit.Eleven Brisbane ministers from five churches have formed alliance to call for the Abbott government to pay attention to one of the most pressing issues of the time.

Dean of St John’s Anglican Cathedral, Reverend Peter Catt. (Photo: Supplied)

The dean of St John’s Anglican Cathedral, Reverend Peter Catt, who also serves as the group’s spokesperson, said the government did not understand how the economy and the environment are deeply linked, and how the economy operates and how it depends on the environment. Dr Catt views the environment as the foundation of economic growth, prosperity, and “human flourishing”. Noting Christianity’s principle of stewardship, he said, “the Earth is a precious gift and that humans are called to act as stewards.” He added:

Climate change is a deep concern. The G20 leaders should be showing leadership and discussing it at the top of their agenda when they meet in our city.“It would be wonderful if a meeting held in our city led the way to sustainable life and a healthy economy.

The ministers call on the Australian Government, which has control of the agenda, to deal with climate change as a priority.

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Abbott rallies leaders’ support on the phone

The G20 Summit 2014 will kick-off in Brisbane next week, Nov 15-16, to gather prominent leaders and players in the global economy. However, this summit, which will focus on economic growth, is sure to juxtapose not-so-pleasant scenes from the opponents of free market ideologies. The Brisbane local government is all set to deploy police force in various locations to ensure of peaceful demos. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has been reported hitting the phone to rally leaders to support his G20 agenda–excluding climate change. Thanks to The Australian to have covered the phone calls. The Green Journal AU is re-blogging the article:

: David Crowe, Political Correspondent, Canberra

TONY Abbott is urging other G20 leaders to raise their ambitions for a summit in Brisbane next month to tackle the slowdown in world economic growth, using a series of phone calls with US President Barack Obama and others to set out an ambitious meeting agenda.

The Prime Minister spoke to Mr Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper yesterday and is due to speak to other G20 leaders in coming days to smooth the way for a reform pact that might one day add $2 trillion to the world economy.

His office said he spoke to Mr Obama for “around half an hour” yesterday on the terrorist threat in Iraq, the spread of Ebola and the G20 meeting. “The President thanked Australia for its efforts in Iraq and continued commitment to disrupting and degrading ISIL,” the Prime Minister’s office said in a statement.

“They agreed that the inter­national community needed to act swiftly to arrest the Ebola epidemic and the President thanked the Prime Minister for Australia’s contribution to date.”

Mr Abbott also spoke to Mr Harper yesterday to express Australia’s solidarity with Canada after a soldier was killed by a suspected jihadist in Quebec.

The conversations are part of a series of phone calls Mr Abbott is holding with his G20 counterparts to ensure a big economic agenda at the Brisbane summit, focused on a “Brisbane Action Plan” that commits to hundreds of reforms across the world’s 20 biggest economies.

Joe Hockey and his fellow G20 finance ministers have cleared the way for the agreement by proposing reforms that range from infrastructure investment to labour-market reform.

Italy has begun legislating new workplace laws that would make it easier for employers to hire and fire workers, for instance, while Germany is said to be preparing an infrastructure plan that could lift growth.

The International Monetary Fund and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development have examined the proposals and said they would add 1.8 per cent to world economic growth over the next five years if they were all implemented.

Mr Abbott is seeking further commitments to lift that figure to 2 per cent, the goal agreed by Mr Hockey and his counterparts at a meeting in Sydney in February.

Some doubts hang over the Brisbane summit on November 15 and 16, with the new Indonesian President Joko Widodo unsure about whether he will attend as he has yet to name his new ministry.

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