Climate Change the Biggest Loser of G20 Summit, Warn Environmental Groups

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by
The Guardian/UK

Climate Change the Biggest Loser of G20 Summit, Warn Environmental Groups

• G20 stimulus package has 'short-changed the planet' • Fears that greenhouse emissions will continue to rise

by
Julian Borger and Felicity Carus

G20 members gather for a group portrait. (Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

The $1.1 trillion stimulus package agreed by G20
leaders yesterday risks locking the world into a high-carbon economy in
which greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, environmental groups
have warned.

Campaigners agreed that the summit's biggest loser was the fight against climate change,
despite a positive response from global financial markets to the
announcement of financial aid. At the summit, prime minister Gordon
Brown reiterated support for low-carbon economic growth and tackling
climate change.

"In mobilising the world's economies to
fight back against recession we are resolved to ... promote low-carbon
growth and to create the green jobs on which our future prosperity
depends," he said. "We are committed to ... working together to seek
agreement on a post-2012 climate change regime at the UN conference in
Copenhagen in December."

"Once again world leaders have
short-changed people and the planet," said Friends of the Earth's
executive director Andy Atkins. "The economic system and the global
environment are on a devastating collision course - but despite
pledging to build an inclusive, green and sustainable recovery little
has been done to change direction."

British government
officials lost the battle to include a commitment to spend a
substantial share of the economic stimulus on low-carbon recovery
projects. The economist Lord Nicholas Stern has recommended that 20% of fiscal stimulus spending should be on projects to address climate change.

The communique's comments on the low-carbon economy and climate change negotiations were limited to two paragraphs at the end, and made no specific commitments.

It
said: "We agreed to make the best possible use of investment funded by
fiscal stimulus programmes towards the goal of building a resilient,
sustainable, and green recovery. We will make the transition towards
clean, innovative, resource efficient, low-carbon technologies and
infrastructure ... We reaffirm our commitment to address the threat of
irreversible climate change, based on the principle of common but
differentiated responsibilities, and to reach agreement at the UN
Climate Change conference in Copenhagen in December 2009."

Britain's
environment secretary, Ed Miliband, said that "the very fact that this
was part of the discussions - and the commitment to Copenhagen is part
of that too - is a sign of that much-needed commodity, momentum".

But
the UN's top climate official called for action, not words. "It's
always useful to reiterate the commitment; better to actually do it,"
said Yvo de Boer. He added: "This is a good example of the major
economies of the world coming together and developing a common
understanding."

Greenpeace's executive director, John
Sauven, said: "Tacking climate change on to the end of the communique
as an after thought does not demonstrate anything like the seriousness
we needed to see. Hundreds of billions were found for the IMF and World
Bank, but for making the transition to a green economy there is no
money on the table, just vague aspirations, talks about talks and
agreements to agree."

Diplomatic sources said China led the opposition to green language in the final text.

Mark
Malloch Brown, the foreign office minister for Africa, Asia and the
United Nations, said there were fears, particularly among emerging
economies, that environmental requirements might act as an impediment
on trade and the speed of recovery.

"The buzzword
'low-carbon recovery' triggers fears of protectionism being introduced
through the back door," said Lord Malloch Brown. The concern is that
countries would impose import tarriffs on goods from nations with lower
environmental standards. Brown said another problem was that
negotiating officials often had narrow responsibilities - trade for
example - and were reluctant to work outside of them. "They want to
hold the line against what they see as mission creep," he said.

Officials
stressed that the objective of the G20 summit was to agree to an
economic strategy. But campaigners say that if tough measures to fight
global warming are not agreed soon, the consequences will be far worse than the global financial crisis.

David Norman, the World Wildlife Fund's campaigns director, said:

"Any
argument that climate change should be moved down the political agenda
until the current economic crisis is addressed is incredibly
shortsighted. Finance and the climate are inextricably linked, and if
we don't address climate change now, we will certainly pay later."

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