The G20 met in Brisbane, Australia over the weekend (November 15 and 16) and despite strong resistance climate change was elevated to a top tier issue. Not only did climate change find its way onto the agenda, it was prominent in the final communique which included references to taking practical measures to combat global warming. The elimination of fossil fuel subsidies and increasing pledges to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) were among the climate related issues that were addressed.
The most strident opposition to the inclusion of climate change came from the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, the host of the G20 Summit. The reason for Abbott’s resistance became clear after he launched a vehement defense of the coal and fossil fuel industry. Abbott’s support for fossil fuels and opposition to the inclusion of climate change was ironic in light of the extreme heat that confronted leaders as they assembled for the summit.
Abbott was begrudgingly forced to accept a discussion about climate change and the final communique which included a call for contributions to the fund and for the “phasing out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies”.
Currently G20 nations are pouring US $88 billion a year in support for the fossil fuel industry. This makes no sense in light of the knowledge that we must leave most of the fossil fuels in the ground if we are to have a chance at staying below the two degrees Celsius upper threshold limit.
The final communique calls on G20 members to “rationalise and phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies”.
Support for the motion came from the US and Europe but the idea was met with predictable resistance from Australia, Saudi Arabia and Canada.
US President Barack Obama was joined by the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon in urging G20 countries to contribute to the Green Climate Fund.
The communique included the following line, “We reaffirm our support for mobilising finance for adaptation and mitigation such as the Green Climate Fund.”
Obama called for global action to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The US President and a majority of leaders present at the G20 summit argued for even stronger language on climate change in the communique.