G20 Talks — Scaling Back Climate Change Pledges, Putting Responsibility On Private Industry

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The upcoming G20 (Group of 20) talks will see finance ministers from the US, China, Germany, and others scale back — and back away from — earlier commitments to “combat” climate change, going by reports.

The plan is apparently to cede efforts to deal with anthropogenic climate change entirely, or almost so, to the private sector. Owing to “scarce public resources,” finance ministers for the countries in question will apparently “encourage multilateral development banks to raise private funds to accomplish goals set under the 2015 Paris climate accord, according to a preliminary statement drafted for a meeting that will be held in Germany next week,” as reported by Bloomberg.

Such a strategy would of course be quite different from the one that was discussed last year when talks concerning the implementation of the Paris Climate Change Agreement were ongoing (where wealthy nations would offer up ~$100 billion a year to slash greenhouse gas emissions around the world).

“It basically says governments are irrelevant. It’s complete faith in the magic of the marketplace,” commented John Kirton, director of the University of Toronto’s G-20 Research Group, in an interview with Bloomberg. “That is very different from the existing commitments they have repeatedly made.”

The news isn’t too surprising, though, as the Paris agreement has been toothless from the start — and who genuinely believed that wealthy governments around the world would selflessly step in to help poorer ones? (Let’s be honest here, most of the “aid” that heads to poorer countries is used to set up wealth pumps that loot the countries in question of their natural resources.)

Bloomberg provides more:

“The shift in tone comes as US President Donald Trump’s Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, prepares for his first G-20 meeting, scheduled for March 17 to 18 in the spa town of Baden-Baden. …

“Several leaders of G-20 nations have expressed strong support for combating climate change and upholding the Paris accord since Trump’s election, including China and the UK. The annual summit of G-20 heads of state is scheduled for July in Hamburg. It’s unclear what countries pushed for the new language in the finance ministers’ draft statement, which is likely to undergo revisions before being formally adopted.

“The most notable element of the draft is what’s missing. The statement issued after the G-20 finance ministers and central bank governors meeting in July dedicated 163 words to the Paris Agreement, pushing nations to bring the deal into force, meet emissions targets and fulfill financial pledges. This current draft dedicates just 47 words to the agreement, focusing exclusively on development banks raising private funds, without mentioning government financial support. …

“The finance ministers’ draft statement didn’t fully abandon government-backed environmental efforts. It established a goal for G-20 nations to phase out fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption by 2025. And it welcomed a push for public companies to disclose climate-related risks to shareholders.”

As Germany is the host of the upcoming talks, it will lead the process of writing the statement, it should be remembered — which then has to be adopted via consensus by all of the 19 other nations in question (Germany counts as part of the European Union).

John Kirton continued: “The most charitable thing to say is they’re waiting to see where Donald Trump actually lands by the time they get in Hamburg and thus, doing nothing to annoy the incoming American Treasury Secretary.”

There are certainly other possibilities, though. We’ll find out soon enough what the situation is, as the talks begin only a week or so from now. Notably, US President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are slated to hold a meeting on March 14 in Washington, DC.

The director of policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, Alden Meyer, commented on the news in an interview with Bloomberg: “The takeaway is it clearly puts less emphasis on climate finance as a priority than last year’s did. It doesn’t talk about government action. That is a significant step back from what countries agreed to in Paris.”

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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