G20 Expected to Move Forward on Cutting Fossil Fuel Subsidies

The Group of 20 will agree to phase out fossil fuel subsidies in the “medium term,” according to the most recent leaked draft of their communique. Leaders will also agree to “intensify our efforts” to reach a deal in Copenhagen at the end of the year, but, as expected, won’t offer any more specific commitments on climate.

The draft cites recent data from the International Energy Agency and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that finds that cutting these subsidies alone would likely reduce greenhouse gas emissions 10 percent by 2050. It directs the energy and finance ministers of the G20 nations to develop timelines and strategies for phasing out those subsidies:

“Inefficient fossil fuel subsidies encourage wasteful consumption, distort markets, impede investment in clean energy sources and undermine efforts to deal with climate change,” says the draft statement.

Leaders are also expected to direct their finance ministers to provide them with a survey of their options for financing climate change adaptation and mitigation in the poorest countries, and to reaffirm their desire to reach a deal on climate this year. “We underscore anew our resolve to take strong action to address the threat of dangerous climate change,” said the draft.

Perhaps the biggest development was Obama’s announcement on Friday that G20 would henceforward replace the G8 as the main economic council of the world’s wealthiest nations. While G8 has been composed of northern-hemisphere, historical powers, the G20 includes nations like China, Brazil, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa—rising economies that will play an increasingly important role in global decision-making. It reflects the movement to a more multi-polar world, and the new grouping  accounts for roughly 85 percent of global gross domestic product and, in turn, 85 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.