The G7 summit: Look for a strong climate statement with or without the US

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Image: Panorama of La Malbaie
A strong outcome is needed

The 44th meeting of G7 leaders takes place in Charlevoix, Canada on June 7th and 8th 2018. As the host of this year’s gathering – the sixth G7 meeting in Canada – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau set five themes for the meeting. The cross-cutting goal of Advancing Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment is to be woven into the themes of Investing in Growth that Works for Everyone, Building a more Peaceful and Secure World, Preparing for Jobs of the Future and, Working Together on Climate Change, Oceans and Clean Energy.

If global leaders are struggling to maintain the political centre needed for Paris Agreement-compliant national climate policies, President Trump’s unilateral imposition of tariffs on aluminum and steel imported from Canada, the EU and Mexico, has provided a boost to political leadership on climate change, oceans and clean energy (CCO&CE).

In preparation for this meeting, Canada has hosted meetings of ministers of Employment and Innovation, Foreign Affairs and Security, Finance and Development, along with Central Bank Governors. The ministers of Environment, Oceans and Energy will meet in the fall.

Observers of the leader’s meeting should expect G7 leaders frustrated with US trade sanctions, to forego a consensus with the US and issue a strong statement on CCO&CE. A strong outcome is clearly needed for progress to be made at COP24 in Poland and at the G20 meetings in Argentina this fall.

And suddenly there it is the G6 versus the US on trade

Well timed to deal with any “surprise” agenda items ahead of the G7 summit, the Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors’ meeting occurred just one week before the meeting in Charlevoix.

The day before this meeting, the United States imposed stiff tariffs on aluminium and steel imported into the US from, among others, Canada, the EU and Mexico. Adding insult to injury, “national security” was invoked as the grounds for these tariffs.

The response from G7 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors was swift and strong. From the finance ministers’ chairs’ statement: “Concerns were expressed that the tariffs imposed by the United States on its friends and allies, on the grounds of national security, undermine open trade and confidence in the global economy. Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors requested that the United States Secretary of the Treasury communicate their unanimous concern and disappointment.”

Will US imposed aluminium and steel tariffs derail climate?

While it is possible that the G7 meeting descends into acrimonious debate on trade, there are signs that a strong consensus by G6 countries on CCO&CE may be possible. The communiqué from the G7 Development Ministers’ meeting is indicative and the Hamburg G19 Climate Action and Energy Plan for Growth sets a precedent for a leaders’ consensus that is not unanimous.

Following the US decision on the Paris Agreement, in Hamburg (Germany) G20 leaders introduced the Climate and Energy Action Plan for Growth with the following: “The Leaders of the other G20 members state that the Paris Agreement is irreversible. We reiterate the importance of fulfilling the UNFCCC commitment by developed countries in providing means of implementation including financial resources to assist developing countries with respect to both mitigation and adaptation actions in line with Paris outcomes…We reaffirm our strong commitment to the Paris Agreement, moving swiftly towards its full implementation in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances and, to this end, we agree to the G20 Hamburg Climate and Energy Action Plan for Growth as set out in the Annex.”

Forewarned is forearmed: G7 Sherpas called for special session on Climate Change

This year, G7 organizers have a game plan that benefits from the experiences in last year’s G7 summit in Taormina and the G20 summit in Hamburg. Late last week, G7 Sherpas were called to a special meeting on climate change, the day before the G7 leaders’ meeting.

What would be the Elements of a Strong G6 Statement on CCO&CE?

G6 leaders should acknowledge the following in a strong communiqué on CCO&CE:

  • The implementation of the Paris Agreement is falling well short of its goal of “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels,”
  • They have committed to mobilize USD $100 billion in climate finance from public and private sources by 2020.
  • They expect Multilateral Development Banks and other financial institutions to lend on the basis of Paris-aligned policies.
  • They support the Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) recommendations and their integration into global standards
  • They support the creation of international frameworks to enable swift global action on the acidification and pollution of oceans and the protection of the Arctic.
  • They will foster circular economy solutions to plastics and marine litter, making the connection between climate change and plastic pollution
  • They will act on their commitments to phase out fossil fuel subsidies by 2025, phase out thermal coal and implement the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol
  • They acknowledge the responsibility to support a just transition for workers and communities affected by the transition to a low carbon economy.

Ironically, the planning of the G7 leaders’ meeting in Charlevoix – including the focus on oceans – reflected the G7 presidency’s commitment to maintaining “space for G7 consensus”, to include the US. We may look back on June 1st – the day that the US imposed tariffs on steel and aluminium – as the day the G6 realized that on CCO&CE, unanimity is not possible under the current US presidency.

Image: Céline Bak

Céline Bak is the Founder and President of Analytica Advisors, a consulting firm focusing on developing the global green economy. She is also a senior fellow at the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) and has served as co-chair of the Think Tank 20 (T20) Climate Policy and Finance Task Force.

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