Civil society makes climate action a priority for G20 leaders

With Germany having assumed the presidency of the G20 (Group of Twenty) in December 2016, the G20 Summit 2017 is scheduled to take place in Hamburg, Germany, on the 7 and 8 July. It is one of the central global forums for international cooperation on financial and economic issues. A full list of the twenty member countries (19 + the European Union) as well as of the permanent guests, partner countries, and invited organisations for the 2017 summit can be found here.

Climate is one of the prioritised issues on the agenda of the 2017 event, alongside themes in the categories of economic, financial, trade, employment, and development policy. Overall, the summit is focused on building resilience, improving sustainability, and assuming responsibility. A list and summary of the fifteen core agenda topics can be found here.

In February, the G20 Sherpa and Chief Economic Advisor to the German Chancellor Lars-Hendrik Röller said the presidency wants to link climate and energy policy more closely and aims to formulate a G20 energy action plan that focuses on de-carbonisation. He also said the German presidency plans to raise the issue of carbon pricing. However, the issue of climate change financing has proven to be a problematic agenda point. Some connected proposals had to be abandoned under pressure of other participating parties. Eighty percent of global energy-related CO2 emissions are emitted by the G20 countries, and they simultaneously hold eighty percent of the share of build-up in renewable energies. The G20 Summit is therefore a meeting of “climate and energy policy heavyweights”.

In the run-up to the summit, one of the points on the agenda of German chancellor Angela Merkel are meetings with civil society organisations, all of which are organised by the respective organisations and will take various formats. Among these organisations are groupings that are representative of specific communities within the economy or society of the G20: business (Business20), non-governmental organisations (Civil20), trade unions (Labour20), scientific organisations (Science20), think tanks (Think20), women organisations (Women20), and youth organisations (Youth20).

All of these groupings have published communiqués and policy recommendations that they presented to the Chancellor at their meetings. Climate and environmental protection has been cited as a priority in all but one (Women20).

Business20 concentrates three out of their twenty recommendations on the issue of climate protection and resource efficiency. It advocates to “curtail climate change by implementing the Paris Agreement, developing consistent and robust carbon pricing, as well as by fostering green finance”. Furthermore, it recommends to “foster the global energy transition” and to “advance resource and energy efficiency”. In interrelation with the interest group they represent, they cite the advancement of these policies as a crucial basis for improving economic, social, and environmental sustainability.

The Civil20 communiqué strongly disapproves of the US government stepping out of the Paris agreement, emphasising that “the global climate crisis represents one of the largest risks to sustainable development, gender equality, inclusiveness, equitable economic growth, and financial stability, and even survival itself for the most vulnerable”. Accordingly, sustainability in regard to climate and energy is brought forward as one of their seven core policy recommendations. Integrated in this recommendation are the commitment “to rapid and robust implementation of the Paris Agreement and related agreements”, “ to develop mid-century, long-term, low-GHG emission development strategies”, to “support climate resilience, especially of the poorest and most vulnerable populations”, to “set clear price signals to stimulate more sustainable and inclusive development while reducing carbon emissions, including through the phase out of fossil fuel subsidies”, to “align financial markets with the Paris Agreement and the SDGs”, and to “ensure infrastructure development that is sustainable and climate-resilient”.

Labour20, Science20, and Women20 focus their proposals on the interests of their respective represented groups. However, the Labour20 recommendations cite “action on climate” and “the rule of law to hold companies to account on rights, on taxation and on environmental standards” as priorities. The Science20 recommendations focus on the agenda point of “improving global health” and note the urgency to act on climate change by referring to it as one of the “challenges that interfere with good living conditions and good health”.

Four out of the twenty Think20 recommendations focus on climate policy and finance, rendering it a top priority. The group calls for the “promot[ion of] the leveraging of market forces to support low-carbon growth”, “the coherent management of the distributional effects of climate policy, “green-technology SMEs”, and the “standardiz[ation of] green finance practices”.

Youth20 presents the issue of climate change as one of eleven priority themes in their position paper. Under the title of “Climate First”, they advocate the honouring of “international Climate Change Agreements, such as the Paris Agreement”, “empowering sustainable solutions to environmental problems”, and “raising awareness” through education, participation, and awareness campaigns.


(Image: Civil20 Meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel for 2017 G20 Summit. Photo credit: Bundesregierung/Kugler)