An alternative G20 People’s Summit led by an indigenous people’s group will be held separately in Brisbane in response to the Coalition Government’s exclusion of climate change from the G20 Summit 2014 agenda. The three-day People’s Summit will take place on Nov. 12-14, ahead of the G20 leaders summit on Nov. 15-16.
While Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott will welcome delegations of the G20 for talks on global economic issues and cooperation, climate activists and civic groups will take to the streets and other venues in Brisbane to highlight what is missing in the leaders’ summit agenda.
The Brisbane Community Action Network – G20 (BrisCAN–G20) was created to question the policies enshrined in the free market ideologies of the G20. BrisCAN-G20 wants “to reframe public G20 discourse around issues that impact people, communities and environment; issues that are not addressed or have been ridden roughshod over by the G20 to date.”
Abbott argued that G20 is an economic summit, not a climate summit. He stands by his word, ignoring his disappointed European counterparts and US President Barack Obama.
In September this year, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hosted the UN Climate Summit in New York, but Abbott did not show. Managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Christine Lagarde, later noted that climate change should be discussed during the G20 Summit in Brisbane, but Abbott said the G20 is meant to focus primarily on economic growth. He said other issues would only clutter the issue and distract from the summit’s focus. Obama’s international adviser, Caroline Atkinson, also expressed disappointment and was reported to have said, “the idea that Abbott is preventing a discussion on climate change is laughable.”
Abbott will be meeting three UN Climate Summit absentees, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, India Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
In preparation for the leaders’ summit, Abbott has been reportedly making phone calls to leaders to rally support for the G20 agenda.
The NY summit concluded with a modest target. The EU suggested it would agree to bigger cuts to emissions, 40 per cent by 2030 on 1990 levels, although other countries aim to keep their existing goals.
Abbott is a self-confessed climate sceptic. He already scrapped the carbon tax, and the nation’s renewable energy target is under threat. For Abbott and the rest of his Coalition Government, policies on mitigating climate change can only put a “handbrake on the economy”. The carbon tax, he says, pressures businesses with extra costs, and thus any climate-related issues can significantly discourage production.
BrisCAN-G20 will stage Visioning Another World: The G20 Peoples Summit, a three-day festival packed with events. Programs include conversations, symposiums, creative activities, cultural performances, education, and peaceful demonstrations. It will take place in various locations in Brisbane, aiming to bring together local and international thinkers to collaborate on broad themes such as the economy, growth vs sustainability, environment, climate change, earth rights, dispossession decolonisation, and other issues of social justice. BrisCAN–G20 is concerned about social and economic disparities perpetuated by G20 and the systems it represents.
Various groups and NGOs will join the summit including the Friends of the Earth, OXFAM, National Congress of Australia’s First People, International Trade Union Confederation, Australian Greens and Palm Island Community.
Church Communities call for stewardship
Church groups have also been pressing for environment to be included in the G20 summit. Eleven Brisbane ministers from five churches have formed alliance to call for the Abbott government to pay attention to one of the most pressing issues of the time.
The dean of St John’s Anglican Cathedral, Reverend Peter Catt, who also serves as the group’s spokesperson, said the government did not understand how the economy and the environment are deeply linked, and how the economy operates and how it depends on the environment. Dr Catt views the environment as the foundation of economic growth, prosperity, and “human flourishing”. Noting Christianity’s principle of stewardship, he said, “the Earth is a precious gift and that humans are called to act as stewards.” He added:
Climate change is a deep concern. The G20 leaders should be showing leadership and discussing it at the top of their agenda when they meet in our city.“It would be wonderful if a meeting held in our city led the way to sustainable life and a healthy economy.
The ministers call on the Australian Government, which has control of the agenda, to deal with climate change as a priority.