At the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, the US was isolated by the 19 other members of group who decided to push ahead with the Paris Climate Change Pact. The communique issued at the end of the two-day meet on July 8 “re-affirmed the group’s commitment to the pact”. US President Donald Trump, who had pulled his country out of the Paris Pact last month, did manage to have a reference to fossil fuels inserted in the summit’s final statement. But the rebuke to America was complete when its proposal to “work closely with other countries to help them access and use fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently,” was boxed into one paragraph of the final communique, which stressed on “affordable, reliable, sustainable and low greenhouse gas energy systems”.
Almost immediately after the US ditched the Paris Climate Change Agreement, most of the pact’s other signatories had closed ranks. Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, which were reportedly considering diluting their commitment after the American withdrawal, reiterated their support to the deal at Hamburg. But other than a show of strength, the global response to the challenges created by the US’ departure from the climate compact has, at best, been tentative. The Hamburg Summit did not mark a significant departure in this respect.
The Climate and Energy Action Plan for Growth, released at the end of the summit, does not have a roadmap to negotiate one of the most fraught aspects of global climate talks: Climate finance. It does talk of involving multilateral development banks and industry to fund low-carbon initiatives. But the plan has nothing to fill in the void created by US withdrawal from the Paris compact. At Paris, the US had committed to paying $3 billion to a corpus to fund climate change mitigation efforts in developing countries. Before reneging on the pact, it paid $1 billion. The Hamburg plan does not talk of ways to deal with this $2 billion shortfall.
The backtracking by the US from the Paris Pact would require other countries to raise their climate change mitigation ambitions. But the developed countries within the G 20 have a mixed record in this respect. The power sector in Australia remains heavily coal-dominated. Canada has scaled up its renewables target, but oil extraction from tar sands is adding to the country’s carbon footprint. Germany, the strongest critic of the US at the Hamburg Summit, and the world leader in renewables, has announced that it will make “climate action a key focus of the G 20 Presidency,” which runs until November 30 next year. Its stewardship will be keenly watched.