Environmental groups see snub at G20 summit

LONDON (Reuters) - World leaders at the G20 summit disappointed environmental groups on Thursday who said their commitment to fight climate change had been vague.

Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown addresses a news conference at the G20 summit at the ExCel centre, in east London April 2, 2009. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

The leaders reaffirmed a previous commitment to sign a U.N. climate deal this year, a step the U.N. climate-change chief said was useful, though action would be better.

The London summit had focused on averting a financial meltdown, pledging a $1 trillion package to save the world economy and boost fragile consumer and business confidence.

On “green” causes the leaders affirmed a 15-month-old commitment to agree in December this year a new climate treaty and resolved to “accelerate the transition” to a low-carbon economy.

“In mobilizing 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,” said summit host British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

“We are committed to ... working together to seek agreement on a post-2012 climate change regime at the UN conference in Copenhagen in December.”

Environment experts and lobbyists had wanted a stronger message to re-build a leaner economy run on wind and solar power to avoid a future climate crisis and energy crunch even worse then the financial crisis.

“For making the transition to a ‘green’ economy there is no money on the table, just vague aspirations,” said environmental group Greenpeace’s executive director John Sauven.


U.N. climate change chief Yvo de Boer said words were good, but action better.

“It’s always useful to reiterate the commitment, better to actually do it,” he said.

“I think it’s good,” he told Reuters of the G20 outcome. “This is a good example of the major economies of the world coming together and developing a common understanding.” The summit was never likely to assign targets for green spending estimated at up to 15 percent of recovery plans now -- and which green policy analysts say should be between a fifth and a half.

Countries led by China, the United States, South Korea and the European Union have already committed to use a portion of recovery spending for green causes.

A report for WWF and environment think-tank E3G published on Thursday said Britain’s and Italy’s recovery plans did more climate harm than good when road-building was included.

British energy and climate minister Ed Miliband told Reuters stimulus spend on climate wasn’t about “plucking figures out of the air” but shifting the issue into mainstream economic debate.

A representative of small island states at 175-nation climate talks in Germany said the G20 leaders should have put more money into preventing rising seas caused by climate change.

“If they can mobilize trillions of dollars to create jobs why can’t they do more to stop climate change?” said M.J. Mace, legal advisor to the Federated States of Micronesia.

Additional reporting by Alister Doyle in Bonn