Can the G-20 Save the Environment? Potential Impact of the G-20 on International Environmental Policy


  • Barry Carin Centre for International Governance Innovation



The G-20 was created to deal with the global financial and economic crisis of 2008. G-20 leaders were successful – the crisis was contained. Should the G-20 leaders move on to deal with the most difficult and hitherto intractable global environmental policy issues? The United Nations has not been up to the task; can the G-20 fill the vacuum? This paper reviews the criteria for issues to be included on the G-20 leaders’ agenda and provides a tour d’horizon appraising the state of the global environment. It also includes some “Global Footprint” statistics demonstrating the current global unsustainable rates of consumption. Based on the G-20 agenda criteria, of ten global environmental issues, only climate change qualifies for consideration. Annex I canvasses the status of nine other specific dimensions of the global environment – Water, Forests, Biodiversity and Land Use Management, Air Pollution, Waste Management, Ozone Layer Depletion, Oceans, Fisheries and Population. The paper describes the inadequacy and fragmentation of present institutional arrangements. The concluding section provides conjectures and recommendations on a pragmatic approach for G-20 engagement with climate change and outlines a package of initiatives, with each element arguably being in every G-20 country’s national interest. Elements of the package include “no regrets” actions, eliminating fossil fuel subsidies, standards, R&D collaboration and security of supply arrangements. The G-20 could also help rationalize the jumbled melange of international environmental organizations and catalyze the creation of effective governance institutions and mechanisms.


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