G-20 Adopts Modest Climate Statement as Trump Stumbles, Japan Grapples with Coal
Leaders of the G-20 industrial economies held their ground against Trump administration climate denial at the end of their annual meeting in Osaka, Japan Saturday, adopting a watered down statement on the climate crisis that fell short of what was needed but still committed to continuing action to implement that 2015 Paris Agreement.
Even that outcome was uncertain until the very end, with Brazil, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia all creating tensions around the final declaration, the Washington Post reports.
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In the end, “the United States was the lone dissenting voice in the final communiqué, in which 18 countries and the European Union underlined that the Paris climate accord is irreversible, and reiterated their commitment to its full implementation,” the Post writes. “The modest language adopted by G-20 leaders was greeted as dangerously complacent by some environmental groups. But it displayed a common voice on the urgency of tackling climate change.”
“While other leaders managed to hold the line on the Paris Agreement, it’s unfortunate that they have to continually fight this rearguard action against Trump denialism instead of devoting their energies to scaling up global action,” said Elliot Diringer, executive vice president of the Arlington, Virginia-based Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. [Is it too soon to start counting down? Just 488 sleeps to go.—Ed.]
“Trump is ignoring not only science but the growing demands of the U.S. public and U.S. companies for decisive action,” Diringer added. “As even the Chamber of Commerce recently declared, inaction is not an option.”
The Post coverage documents Trump’s isolation from the world leaders attending the gathering, with statements that conveyed out-of-date assumptions about renewable energy and a shaky understanding of the difference between global warming and air pollution. But another bizarre performance from the current occupant of the White House ultimately seemed less influential than French President Emmanuel Macron’s threat to reject the communiqué unless it included a strong commitment to climate action.
In the end, the French president “said leaders had at least managed to prevent a backsliding on climate change, ‘clarifying Brazil’s position on climate change and biodiversity,’ and preventing Turkey from withdrawing from the Paris Agreement,” the Post states. And with that, “Macron said his ‘red line’ had not been crossed.”
The G-20’s next challenge begins in November, when Saudi Arabia—fresh from a successful push to undermine mid-year climate negotiations in Bonn—begins its year-long G-20 presidency.
Going into the G-20 summit, Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was promising “firm leadership” on climate and “disruptive innovation” to deliver economic growth, but was under intensifying pressure to dial back his country’s avid support for coal-fired electricity generation, the Post reported in the lead-up to the summit.
“Since 2012, Japan has embarked on a major spending spree to modernize its coal industry, which it boasts as one of the cleanest in the world,” the paper noted. “Japan has 12 new plants already up and running, 15 being built, and 10 in the planning stage.”
Those totals, along with the eight new overseas coal plants it has financed since the Paris deal was signed in 2015, make Japan the G-20’s second-biggest source of public funding for new coal development, after China. Three of its banks are among the four biggest private financiers that are still willing to support the coal industry, according to BankTrack data.
“The climate emergency demands an urgent response from governments across the world,” Greenpeace Japan said the lead-up to the summit. “To show real climate leadership, the Japanese government needs to stop bankrolling the destruction of the climate.”
Ironically, “the seal of Japan is that it’s efficient, it’s efficient, it’s clean, it’s modern,” added Renato Redentor Constantino, head of the Quezon City, Philippines-based Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities. “But they are increasingly being seen as tied to the past, to a past the world is trying to leave behind.”
“Japan doesn’t think it is all right to use coal-fired power for good,” acknowledged the country’s minister for economy, trade and industry, Hiroshige Seko. “Rather, we think we have to reduce its dependency. However, the reality is that there are countries that have to use coal-fired power because of its cost, or because of their conditions of electric transmission and grids.”