G20 Pledges Action on Climate Change, Greenhouse Gases

Obama, left, and China's President Xi greet each other before their bilateral meeting at the G20 Summit September 6 in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Obama, left, and China’s President Xi greet each other before their bilateral meeting at the G20 Summit September 6 in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Washington,
September 6, 2013

Nations of the world’s leading economies rank climate change along with growth, jobs, investment and trade as a key issue of the future, one that will extract ever higher costs if “we delay additional actions,” according to language of the St. Petersburg Declaration, adopted by the G20 nations September 6.

Leaders of the 19 nations and the European Union reaffirmed “our commitment to fight climate change.” The statement also looks toward to the upcoming Conference of the Parties of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as a forum where further progress might be made toward the overarching goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and developing adaptations to a changing climate.

COP-19, as the November meeting will be known, is to be held in Warsaw, Poland.

G20 nations took further steps toward global environmental protection by adopting separate resolutions expressing mutual intent to reduce the production and use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

HFCs are gases used in refrigeration and air conditioning equipment and in some industrial processes. A substitute for chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), HFCs came into wider use through the 1990s after a 1987 international agreement to phase out CFCs, which were diminishing the planet’s protective ozone layer.

The “unintended consequence” of that transition, according to a September 6 White House fact sheet, “is the rapid current and projected future growth of climate-damaging HFCs.”

In a separate agreement emerging from the bilateral meeting between President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping, the United States and China will establish a group under the 1987 Montreal Protocol that will examine some of the practical issues surrounding the HFC scale-down, including costs, safety, technology and environmental benefits.

Regarding the overall G20 agreement on “Pursing the Fight against Climate Change,” the St. Petersburg declaration endorsed the efforts of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to build international political agreement for a next-generation protocol that will extend the goals of the UNFCCC to deal with climate change beyond 2020, when current agreements and successive extensions expire.

The St. Petersburg Declaration also affirms support of the Green Climate Fund, which was put forth as a financial operating arm of the UNFCC in 2010. The fund is intended to help promote the shift to development strategies based on low-emission technologies, which would help emerging and growing economies reduce GHGs and adapt to the effects of climate change.

The board of directors of the Green Climate Fund is still deciding how the nascent organization will operate and is developing procedures for issuing grants and loans to client governments and interacting with client states.