On Monday night, the world’s biggest economies shook hands and pulled the curtain closed on the annual G20 summit in Hangzhou, China. And while climate change made headlines during the summit as two of the world’s biggest emitters officially joined the Paris climate agreement, climate and environmental activists are more concerned with what the G20 failed to consider than what it did.
“The G20 failed to set the right priorities,” Pirmin Spiegel, General Director at the Catholic Bishops’ Organisation for Development Cooperation — a member of the international Climate Action Network — said in a statement. “They don’t seem to care for our common home. While climate change is only one of ‘Further Significant Global Challenges Affecting the World Economy’, the biggest problem and — at the same time — the one-size-fits-all solution G20 offers to these challenges is growth. They stick to the same old tools that have not been able to solve the climate crisis and global inequality.”
Despite two of the world’s largest emitters formally entering into the Paris agreement — and the agreement itself being that much closer to coming into force globally — the G20 summit failed to set a timeline for when the agreement must be ratified.
In the official communique adopted by leaders at the summit, nations agreed to “ complete our respective domestic procedures in order to join the Paris Agreement as soon as our national procedures allow.” And while the communique “[welcomes] those G20 members who joined the Agreement and efforts to enable the Paris Agreement to enter into force by the end of 2016,” it doesn’t actually say anything specific about adopting the agreement by the end of the year. According to the Indian Express, India’s chief negotiator at the summit pushed for the exclusion of strict deadlines in the communique, arguing that the country was not prepared, domestically, to ratify before the end of 2016.
That’s not necessarily the end of the world, but it does leave the agreement hanging in the balance —India is one of the world’s top emitters, but there are pathways to ratification even if India doesn’t enter the agreement before 2016 (the World Resources Institute outlines those possibilities here). A vague timeline, however, is bad news both for activists in the United States, who want to shore up the agreement before a potential Trump presidency, and developing and low-lying nations, which will bear the brunt of climate change’s consequences.