G-20 Poised To Signal Retreat From Paris Climate Deal Pledge

  • Date: 11/03/17
  • Joe Ryan, Bloomberg

Finance ministers for the U.S., China, Germany and other members of the Group of 20 economies may scale back a robust pledge for their governments to combat climate change, ceding efforts to the private sector.

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Citing “scarce public resources,” the ministers said they would 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.

The statement, obtained by Bloomberg News, is a significant departure from a communique issued in July, when finance ministers urged governments to quickly implement the Paris Agreement, including a call for wealthy nations to make good on commitments to mobilize $100 billion annually to cut greenhouse gases around the globe.

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

Mnuchin’s Debut

The shift in tone comes as U.S. 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. While European nations including Germany have been at the forefront of combating global warming, Trump has called climate change a hoax.

The Republican president vowed during his campaign to “cancel” the Paris agreement but has said little about the deal since taking office. His cabinet members, meanwhile, have sent mixed signals. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. should keep a seat at the table for international climate talks. Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, on Thursday expressed doubt that humans were to blame for global warming and called the Paris agreement a “bad deal” for the U.S.

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 U.K. 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.

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