Finance ministers from the U.S., China, Germany, and other G20 countries are signaling they may pull back from their countries’ financial pledges under the Paris agreement and try to hand the responsibility off to multilateral development banks.
The ministers’ shocking move is contained in a draft statement, obtained by Bloomberg, that represents “a significant departure from a communiqué 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 US$100 billion annually to cut greenhouse gases around the globe,” the news agency reports.
“It basically says governments are irrelevant. It’s complete faith in the magic of the marketplace,” said John Kirton, director of the G-20 Research Group at the University of Toronto. “That is very different from the existing commitments they have repeatedly made.”
The 2017 statement “clearly puts less emphasis on climate finance as a priority than last year’s did,” agreed Union of Concerned Scientists Policy Director Alden Meyer. “It doesn’t talk about government action. That is a significant step back from what countries agreed to in Paris.”
Just in the last month, the G20 nations were said to be ready to confront the new U.S. administration on climate, as private investors with more than US$2.8 trillion under management urged the governments to phase out their fossil fuel subsidies by 2020. The ministers’ statement sets a 2025 target date for that process.
But now, a “shift in tone” is in the air as newly-installed U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, known back home as the “Foreclosure King” for his role in last decade’s U.S. housing crash, prepares to attend the ministers’ meeting in Baden-Baden March 17-18. The difference is partly a matter of what’s stated in the draft communiqué, partly about what’s left unsaid.
“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,” Bloomberg notes. “This current draft dedicates just 47 words to the agreement, focusing exclusively on development banks raising private funds, without mentioning government financial support.”
Germany, as this year’s G20 chair, led drafting of the document, and Chancellor Angela Merkel is a strong advocate for climate action. So “the most charitable thing to say is they’re waiting to see where Donald Trump actually lands by the time they get in Hamburg and thus, doing nothing to annoy the incoming American Treasury Secretary,” The U of T’s Kirton told Bloomberg.