The annual leaders’ summit of the Group of 20 (G20) nations concluded Saturday in Hamburg, Germany with 19 countries standing firm against the United States on issues ranging from climate change to international protectionism, climate organizations welcoming the G19s’ progress on climate action, but many countries “fearing for the future of global alliances in the Trump era,” the Washington Post reports.
Most of the top-line reporting missed the G19’s adoption of the 13-page G20 Hamburg Climate and Energy Action Plan for Growth. It commits the countries to deliver on their Paris commitments, continue work on mid-century decarbonization plans, shift to “affordable, reliable, sustainable, and low-greenhouse gas emission energy systems as soon as feasible”, promote energy efficiency, scale up renewable and sustainable energy, support “access to modern and sustainable energy services to all”, and boost climate resilience and adaptation.
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Still, Trump’s Paris withdrawal took up much of the leaders’ negotiating time and led climate-related coverage of the summit.
“Wherever there is no consensus that can be achieved, disagreement has to be made clear,” said German Chancellor and meeting host Angela Merkel. “Unfortunately, and I deplore this, the United States of America left the climate agreement.”
“Our world has never been so divided,” said French President Emmanuel Macron. “Centrifugal forces have never been so powerful. Our common goods have never been so threatened.”
“The scale of disharmony was remarkable for the annual Group of 20 meeting of world economic powers, a venue better known for sleepy bromides about easy-to-agree-on issues,” the Post recounts. “The divisions were most bitter on climate change, where 19 leaders formed a unified front against Trump. But even in areas of nominal compromise, such as trade, top European leaders said they have little faith that an agreement forged today could hold tomorrow.”
European officials said they often found their interactions with the White House “unsettling”, the Post says, and that may be exactly what the Trump administration intends. “It seems clear that [Trump] is committed to being less predictable and not necessarily seeing predictability as positive in foreign policy,” said one unnamed official.
As ThinkProgress notes, the G20 communiqué acknowledges Trump’s decision to pull his country out of the Paris agreement, while reaffirming the G19s’ consensus that the landmark global deal is “irreversible”. The closing message also includes language on future fossil fuel development that France strongly opposed.
“The United States of America states it will endeavour to work closely with other countries to help them access and use fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently and help deploy renewable and other clean energy sources, given the importance of energy access and security in their nationally determined contributions,” the document notes.
Despite the high-profile split between the G19 and the United States, Climate Action Network-International saw progress at the Hamburg talks. “This is the first time a G20 summit has produced a detailed Climate and Energy Action Plan outlining a to-do list to jointly tackle climate change,” CAN-I states in a release. “All countries, save one, recognize that this is about protecting people’s health, safeguarding ecosystems, [and] promoting economic prosperity and global stability.”
“The adoption of the Climate and Energy Action Plan is a clear indication that the world’s largest economies are well aware that action is urgently needed to make the zero-carbon transition happen,” said Climate Action Network-Europe Director Wendel Trio. “The next step is obviously to move from commitment to action, by raising the level of ambition of the Paris pledges, phasing out fossil fuel subsidies by 2020, and providing support to those most vulnerable to climate change impacts.”
“The G20 summit provides another powerful demonstration that the rest of the world is moving ahead with climate action,” leaving Trump “isolated following his ill-advised decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement,” said Alden Meyer, Director of Strategy and Policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “The Hamburg Climate and Energy Action Plan—endorsed by all the other countries attending the summit—provides a roadmap for implementing and strengthening the commitments that countries made in Paris, as is needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo welcomed the G19s’ renewed climate commitment on behalf of the 91-member C40 Cities network, and Ceres CEO and President Mindy Lubber noted that 400 investors with US$22 trillion under management had endorsed the continuing need for climate action in the run-up to the summit.
In the lead-up to the G20, California Governor Jerry Brown announced he would convene a climate leadership summit in San Francisco in September 2018, reassuring cheering crowds at a Global Citizens Festival in Hamburg that Trump “doesn’t speak for the rest of America”. During the leaders’ meeting, French President Emmanuel Macron said he would host an action session in Paris this December 12, the second anniversary of the global deal.