March 22nd, 2017
Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors of the world’s 20 largest economies came together in Baden-Baden, Germany, for a G20 summit last weekend. The 20 countries together account for over 80% of the global economy.
The meeting, which is always followed by an official statement from the leaders, drew flak this year for a unique reason. This year’s official statement omitted any reference to climate change or climate action.
Reuters reported that “opposition from the United States, Saudi Arabia, and others has forced Germany to drop a reference to financing programs to combat climate change from the draft communique.”
Instead of reaffirming their commitment to combat climate change -which all countries have affirmed in the past and many regards as the gravest national security threat to the world today – the representatives issued mild, cliched, inconclusive lines on decreasing inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.
“We reaffirm our commitment to rationalize and phase out, over the medium-term, inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption, recognizing the need to support the poor. Furthermore, we encourage all G20 countries which have not yet done so, to initiate as soon as feasible a peer review of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption.” – Official Statement, G20 Summit of Finance Ministers & Central Bank Governors, 2017.
This year’s draft communique was milder and less concrete than last year’s. A lingering sentiment in the summit was America’s rising protectionism and Trump’s recent actions, especially his attitude and comments towards China and international organisations.
At their last meeting in July 2016 in the Chinese city of Chengdu, the G20 financial leaders said they encouraged all signatories of the Paris Agreement on climate change to bring the deal into force as soon as possible.
“Recognising the importance of the operating entities of the financial mechanism of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, we welcome the endorsement of the Strategic Plan for the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and call for the Fund’s continued efforts to scale up its operations. We reiterate our call for the timely implementation of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the commitments made by developed countries and international organizations and announcements made by other countries on climate finance.” – Official Statement, G20 Summit of Finance Ministers & Central Bank Governors, 2016.
The omission of climate change from the statement will only fuel climate change deniers and oil interests which stand to lose from any globally coordinated climate action. Additionally, the fact that this sudden omission of climate science from this year’s statement was buoyed by the United States and Saudi Arabia should not come as a surprise. While Saudi Arabia is a heavily oil-dependant economy, the United States is currently led by a climate change denier.
Trump’s war on climate science
Critics observe that this is a sign of grave, more counterproductive and anti-science measures owing to the new President of the United States, Donald Trump.
Trump, whose term began in January 2017, has called global warming a “hoax” concocted by China to hurt the US industry and growth. He has vowed to either decrease or eliminate America’s involvement in the Paris Agreement – the landmark 2015 climate accord that is supposed to curb rising temperatures.
Trump is carrying out campaign promises to shred environmental protections and defund agencies in the US whose job is to protect the environment by checking industry emissions and protect environmental standards. This includes the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Trump has proposed to drastically cut funding for the EPA while he has hinted that he is determined to “getting rid” of the organization altogether.
In the past weeks, Trump has issued executive orders to deregulate coal waste dumping and complete controversial oil pipelines. At the same time, he has stuffed his administration – and cabinet – with climate change deniers and anti-science zealots.
All of this is happening while there has been a global push towards clean energy. Developing countries like India and China have been stringently pushing towards sustainable growth and alternative energy, all the while meeting deadlines to cut carbon emissions. However, all these efforts to combat climate change (the efforts are primarily coordinated by the United Nations and the Paris Agreement) would be hardly consequential if America, the world’s biggest pollutant and most industrialized country, refuses to roll back emissions and consent to the terms of the Paris Agreement.