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Every country except the US in the G20 reaffirmed their support for international efforts to fight global warming at the Hamburg summit, a sharp rebuke to US President Donald Trump

There were large-scale protests against climate change and capitalism at the G20 Hamburg summit. (Photo by Mehr Demokratie)

There were large-scale protests against climate change and capitalism at the G20 Hamburg summit. (Photo by Mehr Demokratie)

Nineteen members of the G20 group of nations underlined their commitment to the Paris agreement, with the US remaining the outlier in the statement on climate change issued at the annual meeting of the bloc at Hamburg in Germany over the weekend.

There were strong disagreements over the climate issue at the Hamburg summit, which was marred by violent clashes between protesters and police in the German city. The insistence of the US to include a mitigating reference to fossil fuels in the section on climate policy in the G20 communiqué remained a sticking point that eluded a consensus.

The G20 group of nations will jointly work to transform energy systems so that their actions lower greenhouse gas emissions in a way that is consistent with the aims of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, the final statement said, adding in a footnote, “the United States is currently in the process of reviewing many of its policies related to climate change and continues to reserve its position on this document and its contents.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel had made international climate protection a priority of her country’s G20 presidency, which had been challenged by US President Donald Trump’s announcement in June to leave the landmark agreement. See: Trump bids goodbye to Paris agreement

Merkel on Saturday said she deplored the US decision to leave the Paris pact. “I think it’s very clear that we could not reach consensus (at the G20 summit), but the differences were not papered over, they were clearly stated,” Merkel told reporters at the end of the two-day meeting. “It’s absolutely clear it is not a common position.”

“The leaders of the other G20 members state that the Paris agreement is irreversible,” the G20 Leaders’ Declaration said. “We reaffirm our strong commitment to the Paris agreement”.

India’s position

India remained firmly in a favour of strong action to protect the climate. Implementing the Paris Agreement globally is essential to fight climate change, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at the summit. “India will implement the agreement in letter and spirit,” he said.

The Prime Minister highlighted the important roles of other BRICS nations, which also includes Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa, in achieving the goals set in Paris in December 2015. He also stressed on the need to be forthcoming on climate change action and emphasised that the developing countries must have enough room to grow.

India, which is the fastest growing major economy in the world, has been proactive in taking action to limit the global rise of temperatures. This was brought out clearly in a stocktaking report released on July 3. It has the G20’s lowest levels of greenhouse gas emissions and energy use per capita, said the Brown to Green Report 2017: the G20 Transition to a Low Carbon Economy report. See: India leads G20 pack in greening its economy

Leaders of the G20 countries gathered at Hamburg for their annual meeting. (Photo by Bundesregierung / Bergmann)

Leaders of the G20 countries gathered at Hamburg for their annual meeting. (Photo by Bundesregierung / Bergmann)

The G20 is crucial for global action on climate change. These economies account for 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions and are responsible for about 82% of global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2014. Greenhouse gas emissions increased by 34% between 1990 and 2014 in G20 countries, but their economies grew by 117%, according to the report, suggesting they are using energy resources more efficiently.

Don’t give up gains

At the Hamburg meeting, some leaders pressed upon Trump to change his mind on the Paris accord. “The Paris agreement on climate change is an important consensus that doesn’t come easily and must not be given up easily,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said after a meeting of leaders from the BRICS countries. His comments were made as the group issued a statement calling on the G20 to push for implementation of the accord.

The G20 summit was marked by protests against capitalism, globalization, and the concentration of power among the 20 nations in the group, as well as for action to combat climate change. The protests have been violent at times. The Hamburg police told CNN that more than 200 police officers have been injured and 114 people have been arrested. It was not clear how many protesters were injured, CNN said.

Trump’s pulling out of the Paris agreement could have actually led to a stronger global climate change plan according to a report in the Time magazine. Experts said the strong statements on global warming that emerged from the G20 summit were far from a foregone conclusion going into the conference.

“We intend to collaborate closely on climate and energy issues to successfully address the challenges of energy security and productivity, environmental protection, and to fully harvest the opportunities for innovation and economic growth,” the G20 Hamburg Climate and Energy Action Plan for Growth said.

“The G20 summit sends the important signal that 19 members are unified in their support of the Paris climate agreement and want to advance the implementation,” Jörn Kalinski, Head of Campaigns of Oxfam Germany, told Clean Energy Wire. “That means Donald Trump is isolated. The attempt of the United States to give fossil fuels a future under the Paris Agreement will fail.”

“Even if the US administration does not support the efforts any longer and bets on fossil fuels, the large majority is turning against the dirty energy sources because they are not viable in the future,” said Eberhard Brandes, Managing Director WWF Germany.


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