Clean energy: wanted everywhere but in the latest G20 text

Posted on June, 27 2010

The G20 leaders conference  has wound down to a disappointing close in Canada, with a stalling commitment to phasing out fossil fuel subsidies and  mentions of clean energy downgraded from eight to zero.
Toronto, Canada - The G20 leaders conference  has wound down to a disappointing close in Canada, failing to build on last year's commitments to phase out fossil fuel subsidies and downgrading mentions of clean energy from eight mentions in their Pittsburgh communique to none from over the border in Toronto.

Sustainable economic recovery will need more than brief platitudes about green recovery, WWF warned on noting the lack of significant commitments on climate change, climate finance or even the G20-nominated issue of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.

“The world leaders are still painting the economy in black and white. But the 21st century economy must include green,” said Kim Carstensen, the leader of WWF’s Global Climate Initiative.

“The greenest thing about the G20 is its ability to reuse and recycle earlier commitments. This summit could have been the beginning of real action towards a clean, efficient and resilient economy but all we got is some nice words about green economy and a recycled statement on fossil fuel subsidies”

At the 2009 Pittsburgh G20 summit leaders committed to “Rationalize and phase out over the medium term inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption”.

“This year’s G20 Statement repeats this commitment, and leaders “...encourage continued and full implementation of country-specific strategies and will continue to review progress towards this commitment.”

Carstensen said, “Reforming fossil fuel subsidies is an obvious win-win solution for the environment and the economy, and it is encouraging that the issue will remain on the G20 agenda. But in Canada the leaders failed to take the next step to indicate their global level of ambition and agree a clear timeline to achieve what they promise.”

India takes a lead

However, one bright spot was India this week translating talk into action, announcing a phase out of fossil fuel subsidies on petrol and reviewing subsidies on diesel and other fossil fuels.

This week India’s example shows that there is surely a will in a number of countries, but to push the global agenda, we still need a stronger ambition and deadlines on phasing out fossil fuel subsidies which account for more than US$500 billion a year globally.”

"They went through this document with a vacuum cleaner . . . "

As the G20 meeting wound down, the final reference to "clean energy" was dropped from the text.

"They went through this document with a vacuum cleaner to remove any reference to clean energy," Carstensen said. "In the Pittsburgh G20 summit, there were 8 references to "clean energy" - in this one, there is zero. This is demonstrative of the host country's lack of drive and ambition on empowering a shift to renewable energy."

The G20 also did not agree any initiatives that could help provide funds to meet the cost of climate change action in the poorest countries. The move by German Chancellor Merkel and French President Sarkozy to advance the discussion on financial transaction taxes (FTT) was shoved aside by the G20. If FTTs were adopted globally, they would have the potential to generate much needed finance for development and environmental issues while forking out for the economy.

“G20 leaders say that they are the premier forum for international economic cooperation.

If they are serious about this, they need to also discuss how to generate the funds urgently needed to help vulnerable countries cope with climate change.”

Canada has played a highly unhelpful role as hosts of the summit, consistently ignoring calls from world leaders to allocate time for meaningful discussion of climate change.

“Canada did not succeed in keeping climate change off the G20 agenda but as host, they must be seen as the major reason why it has not been possible to move beyond repetition of last year’s agreements,” said Zoë Caron, Climate Policy and Advocacy Specialist, WWF Canada.

The G20 missed an opportunity to become a relevant global player on climate and energy. South Korea has a big gap to fill at the next G20 summit in November.

The dirtier, more energy intensive and climate damaging future of liquid fuels - extracting oil sands in Canada
© © Jiri Rezac/WWF-UK
A solar panel is one way of helping curb climate change.
A solar panel is one way of helping curb climate change.