US Tangles With the World Over Climate Change at G20

By Rhett Jones on at

Negotiations over the wording of the final communiqué from the G20 meeting of the world’s wealthiest nations carried on late into Saturday morning. The sticking point? Disagreements over the US’s preferred phrasing for the group’s position on climate change and renewable energy. Bafflingly, the US wanted to state that it will help other nations with access to fossil fuels.

According to multiple reports, negotiations hit a wall when the US insisted on a line that reads, “USA will endeavour to work closely with other partners to help their access to and use of fossil fuels.” The final language that was agreed upon reads, “The United States of America states it will endeavour to work closely with other countries to help them access and use fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently and help deploy renewable and other clean energy sources, given the importance of energy access and security in their nationally-determined contributions.” The language frames America’s dedication to fossil fuels in a way that implies that its focus will be on innovation while still satisfying the oil-lust of US officials like the EPA’s Scott Pruitt. A European official close to the talks tells Buzzfeed, “The Americans will be happier with the wording than we are.”

Disagreement on the issue of climate change was anticipated from the beginning of the meeting in Hamburg and Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed that is “the one crucial issue” to be discussed at the meeting. The US broke with the other members of G20 in June when it abandoned a coalition of 147 nations in the Paris Climate Accord. At the time, Trump insisted that the agreement would be renegotiated but other leaders said that was a pipe dream. Chancellor Merkel reiterated in Hamburg that “the other 19 member states of the G20 say that the Paris agreement is irreversible.” She also made it clear that she “deplores” the fact that the US pulled out of the accord.

The US may have announced its withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord but it technically can’t officially step away until November of 2020. Coincidentally, that’s the year that a recent study from Morgan Stanley estimates that renewable energy will become the cheapest source of power.

Among the many other issues covered in the final G20 communiqué was a section dedicated to “digitalisation.” The most significant pledge in the passage was a commitment “to ensure that all our citizens are digitally connected by 2025 and especially welcome infrastructure development in low-income countries in that regard.”

[G20, Buzzfeed, The Guardian]