G20 plays down commitment to climate change action

1st July 2019 by Emma Goring

Japan bows to US pressure and drops phrases used in previous communiqués.

Japan has bowed to US pressure by watering down commitments to tackle climate change in its draft G20 communiqué, a sign of how Tokyo is seeking to win favour with Washington amid tense trade talks and concerns over North Korea.

The draft document omits the phrases “global warming” and “decarbonisation” and downplays the Paris climate accord compared with previous G20 communiqués. Analysts said the omissions were an attempt to placate the US, which has made clear its intention to withdraw from the 2015 climate pact.

The US and Japan are locked in difficult negotiations over a potential trade deal, in which agriculture and car parts have been sticking points. Tokyo also wants Washington to raise the economic pressure on North Korea and force Pyongyang to give up its nuclear ambitions.

“It is quite striking how Japan is giving up on any leadership on climate, and really striking how they are trying to be very nice to the US,” said Luca Bergamaschi, a former Italian climate negotiator. “We know the US is the country with the highest leverage on Japan, so we can expect there is a high degree of discussion between Japan and the US.”

The G20 summit in Osaka, which starts on Friday, comes after global emissions hit a record high and as demonstrators are planning protests over Japan’s pro-coal policies. Activists are preparing to inflate a blimp with a likeness of Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, standing in a bucket of coal, as they urge the country to stop building new coal-fired power plants.

For the past two years, the climate portion of the G20 communiqué has included a “G19 + 1” statement on climate change, with the US making its own climate statement from the rest of the bloc.

This year, the current draft by Japan caters to the US position and avoids calling for reducing emissions or “decarbonisation”. The wording, seen by the Financial Times, will be discussed by country representative “sherpas” before the summit.

It could still change significantly before its final adoption. While the G20 and G7 have in the past played a crucial role in forging climate deals, that has changed in recent years, since the Trump administration announced it would quit the Paris pact.

This year’s draft does mention climate change, but only among a series of issues, saying: “We recognise the need for addressing global challenges, including climate change, resource scarcity, air and marine pollution, marine plastic litter, biodiversity loss and other environmental issues.”

Jennifer Morgan, head of Greenpeace International, said the omissions from the draft showed “the irrelevance of the G20 in addressing the world’s largest crisis at this point in time . . . it is a complete lack of political leadership”.

The document also avoids endorsing the goals of the Paris accord, while previous G20 communiqués had called the agreement “irreversible”. Although all the G20 countries signed the Paris pact, the emissions of the bloc have been increasing.

G20 governments’ funding for coal-fired power plants has actually increased in recent years, surging from $17bn in 2014 to $47bn in 2017, according to a study by the Overseas Development Institute.

Increased coal funding from China, India, South Africa and Japan has been the main driver, said Ipek Gencsu, the report’s author. “They are really stalling, and they are not delivering on their promises,” she said.

Source: http://bit.ly/G20Jap