Home News Britain rallies G20 on climate change, despite fading hopes

Britain rallies G20 on climate change, despite fading hopes

Published on 08/11/2009

St Andrews — Hosts Britain urged G20 finance ministers to put aside their differences and strike a deal on climate funding Saturday despite fading hopes for an accord at key UN talks next month.

As ministers and central bankers also debated how best to firm up the world economic recovery, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown urged them to consider a tax on global financial transactions, known as a Tobin Tax.

The move would be one way of reflecting the "global responsibilities" which financial institutions have to society, said Brown, whose country is hosting the meeting in the Scottish golfing town of St Andrews.

Brown spoke after prospects diminished that the Group of 20 largest and emerging world economies would agree on climate finance.

A French source told AFP late Friday that, despite the looming Copenhagen talks on cutting greenhouse gases, the issue "may not appear at all in the communique, or there could be something very vague."

This is because some emerging countries say the G20 is not the "appropriate forum" to discuss the issue, the source said.

Alistair Darling, Britain’s finance minister, acknowledged there were "different views" around the table which would lead to "arguments" as he formally opened proceedings Saturday.

"But I think it really is imperative that when we reach the end of the day, we have shown we’ve made some real progress," he added.

"If there isn’t an agreement on finance, if there isn’t an agreement about contributions to make sure we can deal with this problem, then the Copenhagen agreement is going to be much, much more difficult."

The UN’s Copenhagen conference on December 7-18 aims to agree a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, but observers say it could at best yield a political agreement, not a fully-fledged treaty.

UN climate chief Yvo de Boer said last month that the G20 finance ministers’ meeting was one of two "major opportunities" to make headway on finance before Copenhagen.

The other passed last week when European Union leaders failed to specify how much they would contribute despite agreeing that developing nations would need 100 billion euros (150 billion dollars) annually by 2020.

The overall state of the world economy was also a key issue for the finance ministers.

Now that the United States, Japan, Germany and France have emerged from recession after last year’s credit crunch, the G20’s focus has switched from disaster management to building a secure economic future.

Brown said a Tobin Tax was one of several measures which should be considered "with urgency" as the international community considers "whether we need a better economic and social contract to reflect the global responsibilities of financial institutions to society."

The G20 responded to the financial crisis which erupted last year by launching a one-trillion-dollar fiscal stimulus package, but some campaigners have accused it of not doing enough to address the root causes of the crisis.

Talks will also touch on exit strategies from emergency measures put in place at the height of the crisis, although Darling, whose country is still in recession, has warned there is "no room for complacency."

"I hope we can agree… that we need to maintain our support for our economies until the recovery is established," he said Saturday.

"We are still in a position where there is a lot of uncertainty, a lot of risks that need to be negotiated."

Fresh protests organised by trade unions, religious and environmental groups are expected in St Andrews Saturday, urging the G20 to take action on climate change and jobs.

Five anti-G20 protestors blocked the road outside the plush cliff-top hotel where the meeting is taking place for over an hour late Friday.