Climate change made it to the G20 Summit communique in the end, despite the reluctance of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott who insisted during the sessions that coal will power economic growth for the next decade.
After so much wrangling on climate change, Abbott had to bow to the pressure of G20 leaders who pledged commitment to reduce carbon emissions.
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 petitioned for the inclusion of climate change in the G20 discussions.
U.S. President Barack Obama vigorously put pressure on Abbott. Obama delivered a speech on the sidelines of the 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 Climate Fund (GCF).
Prior to the summit, the US and China announced a historic deal on the reduction of carbon emissions.
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 by 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 for a 5 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.
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 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 and 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. We 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.