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G20: Will world leaders finally commit to solving the environmental crisis?

G20: Will world leaders finally commit to solving the environmental crisis?

Avery Maloto

Today, 20 of the world’s most powerful nations will meet at the annual G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan. From June 28-29, 2019, important industrialized and developing countries will partake in the event. These countries will include nations such as Germany, China, and the United States. During the two day meeting, representatives will discuss key issues present in the global economy. While tackling themes such as employment, trade, and investment, this year’s agenda is taking a greener turn. Alongside other important topics, “environment and energy” is listed as a major theme at the G20 summit, where many world leaders will commence.

Past G20 Summits

Climate change has been a recurring topic at the G20 Summit since 2014.
Climate change has been a recurring topic at the G20 Summit since 2014.

This is not the first time the environment caught the eye of world leaders. In fact, climate change has been a recurring topic at the G20 Summit since 2014. Since then, much progress has been made. With nations taking strides together to combat the environmental problem, the last 5 years hold promising efforts.

Here is what we know from past G20 Summits:

  • November 15-16, 2014 — Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
    • Although not on the official agenda, Europe and the United States begin to pressure the group on acting against climate change. 
  • September 4-5, 2016 — Hangzhou, China
    • The United States and China ratify the Paris Climate Change Agreement. Both of the countries are the two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases to this day. Announcing the United States’ support, President Obama stated that the agreement was ‘[giving us] the best possible shot to save the one planet we’ve got”.
  • July 7-8, 2017 — Hamburg, Germany
    • The 2017 meeting focused heavily on climate change. Despite Obama’s commitment in the past, President Trump announces his intention to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. Although he left many leaders fearing global fate, future discussions acknowledge the one-year waiting period before a withdrawal takes effect. With this, the earliest the United States can officially exit the agreement is November 4, 2020. 
  • November 30 – December 1, 2018 — Buenos Aires, Argentina
    • By this meeting, all countries except the United States reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris Climate Accord. 

It is obvious that The Paris Climate Agreement is one of the Summit’s greatest successes thus far. As of January 2019, 184 parties have ratified the agreement and are committed to the responsibilities outlined in the deal. The most important of these responsibilities is ensuring that the global temperature does not rise an additional 2 degrees Celcius. If such an increase were to occur, it would mean [detrimental] fates for ecosystems around the world. 

Support For Climate Reform Mounts Ahead of the G20

In the days leading up to the G20 Summit, many of the 20 nations are affirming their support towards climate change reform. Taking powerful stances across the globe, world leaders are creating change through actions and not just words.

Threats from France

From Paris, President Emmanuel Macron of France threatened to not sign any joint statement from the G20 Summit unless it deals with the environmental issue.

President Emmanuel Macron threatens to not sign any joint statement from the G20 Summit unless it deals with the environmental issue.
President Emmanuel Macron threatens to not sign any joint statement from the G20 Summit unless it deals with the environmental issue.

Just this past Wednesday, Mr. Macron noted that climate change is a “red line”. Speaking to a group of French Citizens in Japan, he threatens that “if [the group doesn’t] speak about the Paris Agreement, and if, to come to an agreement in a meeting of 20, we are no longer able to defend our climate goals, it will be without France”.

Continuing to speak to his people, he alluded to United States’ unofficial rejection of the agreement. Without naming President Trump, Mr. Macron states that “some won’t sign, that’s their business. But we shouldn’t collectively lose our ambitions”.

Japan Plays Catch-Up

Although hosting the G20 summit, Japan has a lot of work to do when it comes to environmental policy. Unfortunately, the country has a large plastic problem.

Last summer, Japan was one of two countries to fail to sign the G-7 Plastics Charter. Back then, they were heavily criticized for rejecting the legislation. However, Japan is finally taking a stand.

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In the final months before the two-day event, Japanese officials have been working to play catch-up to other countries. While nations such as Canada, China, and the United States have already implemented plastic policies in the past, Japan is just starting.

At a rapid speed, officials are pumping out endorsements. Soon, the ideas of banning single-use plastics, researching for plastic alternatives, and cleaning up beaches will be a reality.

G20 Leaders Must Act

Environmental policy is a topic that won’t go away anytime soon. Unfortunately, each passing day without reform threatens the health of man and nature. There is no doubt, time is becoming limited. However, there is no doubt that world leaders are taking note of the severity of the problem.

The next two days have the potential to create global, long-lasting solutions for the planet. Hopefully, the 20 nations representing the world will act accordingly.

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