Let the G20 Handle Global Warming

In this YaleGlobal article, University of Victoria academics Gordon Smith, Peter Heap and Barry Carin argue that, given the likelihood that the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen will not result in a post-Kyoto Protocol agreement that all 192 countries will sign, the G20 should take responsibility for shaping an effective global response to global warming. The G20 has become the main forum for addressing the economic and financial crisis, they argue, so it would be appropriate for them to coordinate the international efforts on climate change. “There are, of course, no guarantees that engaging the G20 directly in the climate change negotiations will produce immediate results,” the authors conclude. “Not involving a small group of leaders, however, seems to doom the attempt to devise a successor to the Kyoto Accord to a lingering death, as the oceans of the world continue to rise steadily about our feet.”


6 Responses to “Let the G20 Handle Global Warming”

  1. 1 Marcus Ko Ho Man 22/10/2009 at 10:00 pm

    During the UN climate summit in late September, China’s president announced an ambitious plan of reforestation and carbon reduction which seemed to have lay a good foundation for the success of COP15. China has also sent a message to President Obama that the US really have to take up the responsibility as the most powerful country and make some efforts. Apparently, China’s move will also encourage other developing countries like India to take some bold steps.

    True, the G20 is a good framework for leaders to throw out some “ambitious” ideas and try to foster some consensus if the COP15 is down (and of course, it is a big disaster if the ministers can achieve nothing even the world’s spot lights are shining on them). One may be skeptic that the lobbyists in the US are just so strong and so it is really hard for President Obama to make some real “changes” since there must be hindrance from the business sector and conservatives. And this is not the same for China – under its undemocratic system, it is really up to the government’s will to reduce its emission by, possibly, sacrificing some short-term economic benefits.

  2. 2 Wong Kam Yiu Alwin 22/10/2009 at 11:41 pm

    ” The key stumbling blocks are well known: developing nations don’t believe they should pay to reverse a climate change trend they did not create – even if they are the key contributors currently – while developed nations don’t believe they should shoulder all the costs, putting their economies at a disadvantage. Such an impasse cannot be resolved at the ministerial level; only government leaders can work out an agreement”

    Indeed, I agree that only government leaders can work this out. But when we look at the minds of these government leaders and how they operate, I see a glimpse chance of striking a successful agreement. The primary interest of all government leaders is to get re-elected and maintain local support. However, to this day, we still see a majority of people putting the economy at a much higher position in the agenda than solving global warming. Despite more and more cries about more frequent and powerful disasters in a global scale, we still see our jobs and income as more important and primarily, that is what we are going to put our votes on. The most obvious reason for the general public to have this view is clear, because they are not the ones directly and greatly affected by global warming! They are not the ones whose land are threatened by increasing sea levels, they are not the ones hit by hurrcianes and floods. Yea they know this is happening else where, but it’s not happening to them! And the can’t care less about others when their own job and livelihood is at stake in this financial turmoil. Therefore, unless more and more people from affluent countries can really appreciate the impact of global warming that could happen to them and their children and think for the good of the world and not just self-interested, I don’t see political leaders acting any differently.

  3. 3 Chan Pui Ki, Kiki 23/10/2009 at 12:44 pm

    While developed countries reject sacrificing their economic development for mitigation of climate change, their developing counterparts refuse to share the burden they did not create. In negotiating a post-Kyoto Protocol agreement, this dilemma must be addressed to break the impasse.

    Basing remedies on purely environmental ground is almost impossible, thus economic incentives are needed. Carbon emissions trading should be internationally adopted. Developed countries can flexibly invest into technology that reduces greenhouse gas emissions, creating employment in researching and developing such technology as well as in constructing facilities employing the technology. Self-interest encourages the accumulation of spared carbon credits to be sold in the market.

    At the same time, the least developed countries which generate smaller amount of greenhouse gases can also sell their carbon credits. As for the developing countries, they can use the new technology to develop their countries sustainably. Energy efficiency and green technology are conducive to national development by efficiently utilizing resources and by incurring lower environmental and social costs. However, there needs to be technology transfer, which is another thorny issue.

    In the meantime, I do think the Group of 20 can be a forum for not only economic and financial crisis but also the environmental one. Given the diversity of interests, it is hard for all the 192 countries to reach consensus. Poor countries may have their voices represented by the emerging developing countries in the G20, and a smaller group size raises the chance of at least coming up with a framework as the basis for discussion. It will be relatively easier to negotiate amendments to it afterwards than to have a universally acceptable framework initially.

  4. 4 Ng Ka Yin, Karen 23/10/2009 at 4:54 pm

    While many of you are blaming or arguing why the leaders of the countries didn’t do something to alleviate the climate change problem, why don’t you ask yourself, did you do something to help alleviating this problem?

    Of course, the political leaders really have an important role on adopting certain agreement which may really bring a huge change of the world. But don’t forget, many small changes group together can make big changes.

    Just take Hong Kong as an example. Have you ever separated your garbage into different categories, like cans, bottles, papers, recyclable, etc? Just make everything simple, I see Japan as a very environmentally friendly countries because they dump their rubbish in a more environmentally friendly way.

    There are a lot to do in the individual level too. Climate change is not just a matter in political level.

  5. 5 Lai Hoi Ho Jackson 25/10/2009 at 12:50 am

    People usually focus just on what countries and international organizations like the UNFCCC can do in response to global warming. However, the writers clearly state that developing nations do not believe they should pay to reverse a climate change trend they did not create while developed countries do not believe they should shoulder all the costs, putting their economies at their disadvantages. Perhaps, we can shift focus to other prominent players in the global climate regime, like multinational corporations (MNCs).

    MNCs are definitely an enormous force. Some MNCs like ExxonMobil and General Electric (GE) have a value added that was comparable to the GDP of some developing countries like Nigeria and Pakistan. This can probably imply that they act like a state in some aspects. According to Bryant Walker Smith, the responses of MNCs to global warming or climate change are very likely to be global in nature. For example, GE imposes environmental requirements on its suppliers, invests in new plants in developing countries, promises to improve the green credentials of its products and operations, and is seeking a large share of the $80 billion that it expects China to spend on fuel-efficient, low-pollutant products.Unlike the government, their responses to global warming are not exclusively a political strategy because the linkage between market and non-market tactics makes it very difficult for MNCs to pursue different political strategies if the market requires a global product.

    You can visit http://works.bepress.com/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1002&context=bryant_walker_smith for more details.

  6. 6 Anna 20/11/2009 at 11:12 pm

    Today I attended a guest lecture. We touched upon the transboundary air pollution issue and I find the discussion gives me some insights concering the global warming discourse.

    I agree political leaders are those having the capability to tackle this problem. Not only the resources or technological know-how matter, but also the legitimacy they endow. However, the problem is many of us are ‘economic animals’ who only look at the cost and benefits. Thus, our so called government leaders will act on this perception so long as they want to gain the support from the citizens.

    Yet, I can think of another source of legitimacy government leaders may make use of it – urgency of the issue. If the problem can be understood and ‘felt’ as so urgent which immediate actions are needed, I guess public will then lend support to the leaders.

    In relation to the global warming issue, I think the second source of legitimacy does exist but conflicting interests among different countries are hard to reconcile.

    Apart from the conflicting interest, as mentioned in the article, the matter discussed in those summits or conferences are technical to be understood by us generally. This generates the question about who is able to ensure the agreed plan is carried out other than the parties involved? When we naturally think that it must be the parties involved, we are actually assuming they know all the stuff around the issue, but the reality is always uncertain. In the transboundary air pollution control between HK and Guangdong (GD), we Hong Kong is likely to achieve the mission set in 2002 whilst GD is very likely to break the ‘promise’ as they forecasted wrongly the economic development and the automobiles usages in GD. That’s why I hold the stance that these sorts of collaboratioin or cooperation in international level is hard to be fruitful, unless sanction is imposed.

    A minor note is when we consider who can solve the deadlock in the ‘wait and see’ in these transboundary devil, other than taking the role in international negotiation, government leaders can fulfill they roles locally first by doing their best in alleviating the problem at home before they demand others to alleviate the problems. Accordingly, they can speak with a louder voice in demanding others to do something.

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