As public support for solutions to climate change grows, the theme of last week’s G8 and G20 meetings seems to have been a decided lack of urgency to implement solutions to global warming.
The G8 focused on security threats — nuclear proliferation, terrorism — but failed to make any progress on global warming, easily the biggest threat to global peace we’re facing. Four paragraphs in the final communiqué were devoted specifically to climate change — including assurances that leaders are “committed to building low carbon and climate resilient economies” and that “climate change remains top of mind” — but no new initiatives or specific actions were announced that would indicate a sense of urgency among the G8 leadership.
The G20 had similarly unimpressive results to show for itself. Some G20 leaders took the first steps towards phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, but collectively the G20 failed to address the urgent need for visionary leadership to stop catastrophic climate change and transition the global economy toward clean, green renewable energy.
Some nations deserve more credit than others. Of all the G20 nations, the US offered up the most robust plan for ending subsidies for big oil and coal, though the plan represents only a fraction of the total subsidies and still requires Congressional approval. At the other end of the spectrum, nations like Australia and Canada failed to take their commitments seriously. In appendices to the communiqué, language suggests that commitments to phase out fossil fuel subsidies are “voluntary and member-specific,” something Canada and Australia have been aggressively pushing for.
One of the best reactions I’ve read so far, however, is from a colleague over at Greenpeace International, Brian Fitzgerald:
I don’t know about you, but the leaders I want to follow aren’t the ones who say it’s too hard to break the world’s addiction to dirty energy. The politicians I want to elect aren’t bought off by oil lobbyists. The beaches I want to walk on are not covered in tar balls. The future I want to inhabit isn’t black with coal dust and oily scum.
They don’t know it yet, but the politicians who sat in last week’s G20 meeting and decided to backslide on their commitments to tackle climate change are no longer the most important voices on the planet. It’s the people who were outside that meeting calling for an energy revolution. It’s the people who have a better idea about what our world can look like, run by energy sources that don’t spill, burn, explode, poison, or destroy. Those are the voices we need to listen to, those are the investment paths we need to follow. Real leaders look ahead to the next generation, not the next election. This is what they look like: