March 31, 2009 / 3:36 PM / 11 years ago

G20 draft adds momentum in climate diplomacy

LONDON (Reuters) - A draft statement which would confirm G20 leaders’ commitment to sign a new climate pact in December and support low-carbon growth drew mixed reactions from green groups and policymakers Tuesday.

Environment analysts say more was unlikely from an April 2 summit of leaders of developed and emerging countries focused on preventing global recession from becoming a depression.

Think-tanks and UN agencies have urged world leaders to use the financial crisis to lay the building blocks for low-carbon growth, and so avert a far worse climate crisis, by spending recovery cash on efficiency, public transport and clean energy.

G20 leaders will issue a final statement in London on Thursday. The low-carbon commitments in a draft seen by Reuters

would add pace to UN-led climate talks to forge a new climate treaty in Copenhagen in December, experts said.

“There’s real momentum ... the politics is lining up,” said Steve Howard, chief executive of the Climate Group, an international environment and business group.

“I have no doubt that by Copenhagen or shortly after we’ll have some sort of broad, global framework. My only question mark is whether we set a high enough level of ambition.”

British environment and climate change minister Ed Miliband told reporters Tuesday that meetings of the G20 this week and the G8 in Italy in July would push climate change diplomacy.

“I hope (the G20) will reaffirm the importance of an ambitious agreement at Copenhagen. We will see discussions around low-carbon embedded into the mainstream of the economic debate,” he added, at the launch of a World Economic Forum initiative to coordinate business views on a climate response.

LOW-CARBON

U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao meet for the first time in London Wednesday in a G20 fringe meeting which green groups hope will lay the foundation for climate cooperation between the world’s top two carbon emitters.

During the administration of former President George W. Bush the United States and China often accused each other of doing too little on climate change.

“A joint US/China commitment to avert runaway climate change ... could be the critical step that breaks the stalemate,” said Karen Sack, Greenpeace International Political Director.

The draft G20 “low carbon” paragraphs read:

“We will work together to explore further measures to promote low carbon growth and build sustainable economies. We reaffirm our commitment to ... reach agreement at the UN Climate Change conference in Copenhagen in December.”

Those words were in the 22nd and 23rd of a list of 24 resolutions. “To see climate change relegated as a kind of afterthought is dispiriting,” said Ben Stewart, spokesman for Greenpeace UK.

Some groups and analysts have criticized Britain for not spending enough of its fiscal stimulus on green causes.

Total global stimulus spending is $2.8 trillion and the “green” part of that about 16 percent, HSBC analysts estimate. The UK plan was about 7 percent green — and more than half of that on low-carbon cars, HSBC analysts say.

Former environment minister Tim Yeo, chair of an environment committee of UK lawmakers, said the G20 draft statement if final “missed... an explicit recognition that investment in low-carbon business is a way the rise in unemployment can be tackled.”

Reporting by Gerard Wynn; Editing by Charles Dick

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