G20 leaders call climate change “one of the greatest challenges of our time” ahead of Paris

Clare Saxon Ghauri
Reading time: 3 minutes
17 November 2015

LONDON: The G20 has released a statement calling climate change “one of the greatest challenges of our time”, less than two weeks before the global climate negotiations begin in Paris.

Leaders from 20 of the world’s largest economies shared the joint communique after a two-day meeting in Antalya, Turkey. The annual summit aims to boost collective economic development of the countries, which together represent 85% of gross world product – and three quarters of global annual greenhouse gas emissions.

In the message, the leaders emphasize their plans for scaling up investment in clean technologies to reduce emissions, bolster energy security and spur the global low carbon economy. They write: “We recognize that actions on energy, including improving energy efficiency, increasing investments in clean energy technologies and supporting related research and development activities will be important in tackling climate change and its effects. We endorse the G20 Toolkit of Voluntary Options for Renewable Energy Deployment. […] We stress the importance of diversification of energy sources and continued investments for increased energy security.”

G20 climate action

The commitments included in the G20 statement are important, but Mark Kenber, CEO, The Climate Group, says the governments missed an opportunity to emphasize longer term decarbonization goals – and also stresses that expectations may have been too high to begin with. “While the focus of those attending the G20 was understandably on the terrible attacks in Paris, heads of government missed an opportunity to put real action behind their long-term commitment to phase out fossil fuel subsidies. Linked to a message about the importance of long-term decarbonization of the economy, this would have sent to a powerful message to negotiators ahead of COP21 in Paris in two weeks’ time about their need for a robust and ambitious climate agreement.”

Despite delaying on phase-out of fossil fuel subsidies, G20 countries have shown increasing climate ambition in recent years. Greenhouse gas emissions per capita has dropped in over half of the G20 members and renewable energy investment has risen in three quarters of them, according to research by Climate Transparency.

Such developments mirror a separate study by the International Energy Agency, which reports that in 2014 – for the first time ever – energy-related emissions did not grow even though global GDP did.

Evidence that economic growth can be decoupled from emissions growth will help pave the way for a successful outcome at the UNFCCC’s climate talks, where the differences between commitments from developed and developing economies have long been debated.

Ready for COP21

In the communique, the G20 outline their support for COP21 and welcome the national climate plans that have been submitted so far. Reaffirming their collective climate action and contributions toward a binding global deal, they state:  “Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time. We recognize that 2015 is a critical year that requires effective, strong and collective action on climate change and its effects.

We reaffirm the below 2C goal as stated in the Lima Call for Action. We affirm our determination to adopt a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the UNFCCC that is applicable to all Parties. Our actions will support growth and sustainable development.

"We affirm that the Paris agreement should be fair, balanced, ambitious, durable and dynamic. We underscore our commitment to reaching an ambitious agreement in Paris that reflects the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances.”

The climate section of the statement concludes by reiterating national efforts to instruct negotiators to engage “constructively and flexibly in the coming days to discuss key issues, among other things, mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology development and transfer and transparency in order to arrive at Paris with a way forward. We commit to work together for a successful outcome of the COP21.”

The G20, which includes Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, UK and US as well as the EU, will meet again in Hangzhou, China, in September 2016.

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By Clare Saxon Ghauri

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