G20 meeting in Brisbane addresses climate change despite reluctant Australian stance

On 15-16 November 2014, the Group of Twenty (G20) met in Brisbane, Australia to discuss ways to strengthen the global economy. The meeting was set to focus on how to increase the resilience of the global economy and drive economic growth. As the conference drew nearer, the blatant exclusion of the impact of climate change on global economic growth gained traction. A pronounced schism between host country Australia and other major economies came to a head after the US and China agreed bilateral climate mitigation targets the week before the G20 conference.

Climate change was promptly, but somehow reluctantly put on the G20 agenda, The Guardian reported. One of the major climate talking points was the Green Climate Fund to which the US pledged USD 3 billion and Japan pledged USD 1.5 billion during the weekend’s talks. Australia still contests the role of this fund and argues for G20 nations’ freedom to allocate resources at their own discretion.

A second point of contention was the need for phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, which contradicts Australia’s plans for developing coal-based energy. As expected, Obama encouraged other nations to increase their commitments to reducing greenhouse gases, indicating that there was no excuse for inaction now that the world’s two largest polluters have set targets. This move was supported by Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel who pressured Australia – now looking isolated in the climate policy debate – to disclose their emissions targets.

While climate change did not feature as prominently on this year’s G20 agenda, key international players are mounting pressure for milestone climate negotiations at COP21 at the end of 2015. In the final communiqué, G20 leaders stated that they “will work 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”.


(Image: General view the G20 Leaders’ Summit opening session in Brisbane. Photo credit: Ray Cash/G20 Australia on Flickr)