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
Blog Link Asian Correspondent

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US economist launches low carbon mission in Australia

While the global community is stepping up plans and actions to respond to climate change, Australia is responding otherwise. Under the current political leadership, Australia’s attitude towards global cooperation has been recalcitrant.

The Tony Abbott’s budget cuts on environment , along with the anti-climate change initiatives, remain a controversial issue triggering non-stop protests and rallies nationwide. But in the midst of chaos, the budget welcomes the re-known economist and professor, Jeffrey Sachs, who arrived in Australia  to launch a clean energy initiative.

Professor Jeffrey Sachs leads the launching of low carbon project in Melbourne (Photo: Rowena Dela Rosa Yoon)

“This is not a great budget, but a great debate,” Professor Sachs quipped.

Noting the crucial role of Australia in preventing a tipping point of the planet, Sachs led the launching of ‘How Australia can Thrive in a Carbon World, Pathways to Prosperity in 2050’ in Melbourne on May 21. The launch was sponsored by Monash Sustainability Institute and The Myer Foundation.

Obviously disappointed and not amused with the budget, Sachs said Australia has a critical role in leading the world towards a low carbon and yet still a prosperous global economy. For one thing, Australia’s per capita emissions are amongst the highest in the world driven by agriculture, industry and coal-based electricity.

He said decarbonisation has been underway,  including Australia’s trading partners with a goal of economic prosperity – yet with improved air quality, energy security and improved standards of living. The project underlies a tough challenge for Australia’s competitiveness driven by emissions from the country’s key exports, including coal, gas, oil and beef. The Monash University team, however, underscores that Australian economy is resilient and diverse, besides the largest industry which occupies 52 percent of the  GDP is the service sector. The carbon emissions sector such as mining, manufacturing, agriculture and forestry share lesser portion to the GDP.

The mission of the project is to map up viable pathways to reduce dangerous carbon emissions. Pathways may include increasing energy efficiency, shift to low carbon resources, and non-energy abatement and sequestration. Sachs said there has been a lot of talks going on and what the global community needs to see is a showcase of a pathway that is viable and achievable. The working paper outlines:

This means that each country will gain insights such as what China is predicting in terms of renewable energy growth, what Europe and the US are assuming with regards to take up of energy efficiency, and what India’s demand for coal may be.

Decarbonization is coordinated globally but driven locally with the participation of 13 countries which collectively represent more than 75 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The project is being coordinated by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) – which is an international network of universities and research institutions. Countries participating include Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Europe, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, South Korea and the United States. 

SDSN appointed ClimateWorks Australia and the Australian National University to jointly lead Australia’s involvement, with modelling by CSIRO and the Centre of Policy Studies at Victoria University. After the launch, the project expects each of the participating countries to prepare summaries of example pathways modelled and demonstration of the technological solutions for deep decarbonisation. The summaries will be included in a SDSN ‘Phase 1’ report to be released in July 2014. It will be presented to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon in preparation for the UN General Assembly meeting and Climate Change Summit in New York City this coming September. Australia’s story will be presented to a global audience.  

Q & A during the launch. Professor Jeff Sachs is seated second from the right. (Photo: Rowena Dela Rosa Yoon)

Q & A during the launch. Professor Jeff Sachs is seated second from the right. (Photo: Rowena Dela Rosa Yoon)

Professor Sachs is known for his work on poverty eradication, including his bestselling books – Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet and The End of Poverty. He is the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and a special adviser to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.