Finance ministers for the US, China, Germany and other members of the Group of 20 economies might scale back a robust pledge for their governments to combat climate change, ceding efforts to the private sector.
Citing “scarce public resources,” the ministers said they would encourage multilateral development banks to raise private funds to accomplish goals set under the 2015 Paris climate accord, according to a preliminary statement drafted for a meeting that is to be held in Germany next week.
The statement, obtained by Bloomberg News, is a significant departure from a communique issued in July last year, when finance ministers urged governments to quickly implement the Paris Agreement, including a call for wealthy nations to make good on commitments to mobilize US$100 billion annually to cut greenhouse gases around the globe.
“It basically says governments are irrelevant. It’s complete faith in the magic of the marketplace,” the University of Toronto’s G20 Research Group director John Kirton said in an interview. “That is very different from the existing commitments they have repeatedly made.”
The shift in tone comes as US President Donald Trump’s Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, prepares for his first G20 meeting, scheduled for Friday and Saturday next week in the spa town of Baden-Baden, Germany.
While European nations have been at the forefront of combating global warming, Trump has called climate change a hoax.
The Republican US president vowed during his campaign to “cancel” the Paris agreement, but has said little about the deal since taking office.
His Cabinet members, meanwhile, have sent mixed signals.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the US should keep a seat at the table for international climate talks.
US Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt on Thursday expressed doubt that humans were to blame for global warming and called the Paris agreement a “bad deal” for the US.
Several leaders of G20 nations have expressed strong support for combating climate change and upholding the Paris accord since Trump’s election, including China and the UK.
The annual summit of G20 heads of state is scheduled for July in Hamburg, Germany.
It is unclear what countries pushed for the new language in the finance ministers’ draft statement, which is likely to undergo revisions before being formally adopted.
The most notable element of the draft is what is missing. The statement issued after the G20 finance ministers and central bank governors meeting in July last year dedicated 163 words to the Paris Agreement, pushing nations to bring the deal into force, meet emissions targets and fulfill financial pledges. The current draft dedicates just 47 words to the agreement, focusing exclusively on development banks raising private funds, without mentioning government financial support.
Germany, as the meeting’s host, leads the process of writing the statement, which is eventually to be adopted via consensus by all 19 nations and the EU.