G20 Communique: Strong On Climate Change, On Sustainability, On Environmental Justice

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It was a victory for climate change action and support for the Paris Climate Agreement, for sure. But the G20 Communique at the end of the Hamburg summit was much more than that: A statement about sustainability, income inequality, and human rights as well.

G20 summit Hamburg 2017At the heart of their message to the world — and to Trump in particular — the Communique declares:

“The Leaders of the other G20 members state that the Paris Agreement is irreversible.”

Here are the sections of the Communique that deal with environmental issues:


Considering the way the global corporate structure has led to economic inequality, wage stagnation, and environmental degradation and climate chaos, “Globalisation” has almost become a dirty word in many people’s minds.

The G20 statement acknowledges that, and points a way forward to a better world:

“Progressing our joint objective in the G20 – strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth – remains our highest priority.

“Globalisation and technological change have contributed significantly to driving economic growth and raising living standards across the globe. However, globalisation has created challenges and its benefits have not been shared widely enough. By bringing together developed and emerging market economies, the G20 is determined to shape globalisation to benefit all people. Most importantly, we need to better enable our people to seize its opportunities… we decide today to take concrete actions to advance the three aims of building resilience, improving sustainability and assuming responsibility.”

Sustainable Global Supply Chains

When G20 nations outsource supply chains to developing countries, it is often the case that environmental protections, human rights, safety, and health are sacrificed in the interest of cost-cutting.  

“In order to achieve sustainable and inclusive supply chains, we commit to fostering the implementation of labour, social and environmental standards and human rights in line with internationally recognised frameworks. …

“We will take immediate and effective measures to eliminate child labour by 2025, forced labour, human trafficking and all forms of modern slavery. We welcome the Vision Zero Fund for to prevent work-place related deaths and injuries and encourage enterprises and others to join.

“We emphasise that fair and decent wages as well as social dialogue are other key components of sustainable and inclusive global supply chains.”

Combatting Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)

I was surprised to see this one. Abuse of antibiotics in giant factory farms has been a particularly senseless example of profit over public good — rather than raise their animals in healthy conditions, factory farmers cram them all together, and then pump them full of antibiotics to keep disease at bay. They also use them to promote faster growth.

The inevitable result: disease organisms have a giant laboratory to develop resistance to those life-saving antibiotics, which then spread to the human population. Doctors have been calling on big agriculture to stop the practice, but nothing much has been done so far. This G20 declaration is an important step.

“AMR represents a growing threat to public health and economic growth. To tackle the spread of AMR in humans, animals and the environment, we aim to have implementation of our National Action Plans, based on a One-Health approach, well under way by the end of 2018.

We will promote the prudent use of antibiotics in all sectors and strive to restrict their use in veterinary medicine to therapeutic uses alone. Responsible and prudent use of antibiotics in food producing animals does not include the use for growth promotion in the absence of risk analysis. We underline that treatments should be available through prescription or the veterinary equivalent only…. Concurrently, in collaboration with relevant experts including from the OECD and the WHO, we will further examine practical market incentive options.”

Energy and Climate

This is the heart of the declaration, and deeply encouraging.

“A strong economy and a healthy planet are mutually reinforcing. We recognise the opportunities for innovation, sustainable growth, competitiveness, and job creation of increased investment into sustainable energy sources and clean energy technologies and infrastructure.

“We remain collectively committed to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions through, among others, increased innovation on sustainable and clean energies and energy efficiency, and work towards low greenhouse-gas emission energy systems. In facilitating well-balanced and economically viable long- term strategies in order to transform and enhance our economies and energy systems consistent with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, G20 members will collaborate closely.

“Recalling the G20 Principles on Energy Collaboration, we regard energy security as one of the guiding principles for the transformation of our energy systems, and we will continue to work on open, flexible, and transparent markets for energy commodities and technologies. We welcome international cooperation on the development, deployment, and commercialisation of sustainable and clean energy technologies and support financing by Multilateral Development Banks to promote universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and clean energy.

“We take note of the decision of the United States of America to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. The United States of America announced it will immediately cease the implementation of its current nationally-determined contribution and affirms its strong commitment to an approach that lowers emissions while supporting economic growth and improving energy security needs.”

Next comes the pathetic fossil-fuel-boosting statement that was Trump’s solitary “win” at the summit:

The United States of America states it will endeavour to work closely with other countries to help them access and use fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently and help deploy renewable and other clean energy sources, given the importance of energy access and security in their nationally-determined contributions.”

And then the G19 push back: 

“The Leaders of the other G20 members state that the Paris Agreement is irreversible.

“We reiterate the importance of fulfilling the UNFCCC commitment by developed countries in providing means of implementation including financial resources to assist developing countries with respect to both mitigation and adaptation actions in line with Paris outcomes and note the OECD’s report ‘Investing in Climate, Investing in Growth’.

“We reaffirm our strong commitment to the Paris Agreement, moving swiftly towards its full implementation in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances and, to this end, we agree to the G20 Hamburg Climate and Energy Action Plan for Growth as set out in the Annex.”

Leading the Way towards Sustainable Development

The Paris Climate Agreement is a good roadmap, but it’s not enough on its own. The entire world needs to shift to sustainable economics.

“The adoption of the 2030 Agenda represented a milestone towards global sustainable development. We call on countries to work with stakeholders to strive towards its ambitious and integrated implementation and timely realisation in accordance with national circumstances. We commit to further align our actions with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its integral part, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development, domestically and internationally, including in support of developing countries and the provision of public goods.

“Building on the G20’s Action Plan on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Hamburg Update emphasises our collective and concrete commitments. We support the central role of the high-level political forum on sustainable development and other key UN processes towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Women’s Empowerment

“Enhanced equal access to the labour market, property, quality employment and financial services for women and men are fundamental for achieving gender equality and full realisation of their rights as well as a prerequisite for sustainable and inclusive growth. We are making progress in achieving our 2014 Brisbane commitment to reduce the gender gap in labour force participation by 25 percent by 2025 but agree that more needs to be done.”

Towards Food Security, Water Sustainability & Rural Youth Employment

“Water is an essential and precious resource. In order to achieve food security, we are committed to increase agricultural productivity and resilience in a sustainable manner, while aiming to protect, manage and use efficiently water and water-related ecosystems.”

Resource Efficiency & Marine Litter

“We launch two initiatives to contribute to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and to reflect our commitment to sustainable development, as outlined in the Annexes. The G20 Resource Efficiency Dialogue will exchange good practices and national experiences to improve the efficiency and sustainability of natural resource use across the entire life cycle, and to promote sustainable consumption and production patterns.

“The G20 Marine Litter Action Plan seeks to prevent and reduce marine litter, including by considering its socio-economic aspects.”

Africa Partnership

“We launch the G20 Africa Partnership in recognition of the opportunities and challenges in African countries as well as the goals of the 2030 Agenda. Our joint efforts will foster sustainable and inclusive economic growth and development, in response to the needs and aspirations of African countries, contributing to create decent employment particularly for women and youth, thus helping to address poverty and inequality as root causes of migration.”

Related: At G20, Trump was no leader – a sad little puppet on the sidelines.

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Jeremy Bloom

Jeremy Bloom is the Editor of RedGreenAndBlue.

Jeremy Bloom has 40 posts and counting. See all posts by Jeremy Bloom