green groups slam G20 "missed opportunity"

Green groups reacted with dismay last night to the historic economic rescue deal brokered at the G20 Summit in London, branding it a "missed opportunity".

While business leaders and anti-poverty groups welcomed the G20's commitment to provide an additional $1.1tr to the World Bank and IMF and introduce tighter regulations on tax havens and hedge funds, green campaigners were left disappointed by the final agreements failure to deliver any specific commitments to curb carbon emissions and invest in green jobs and technologies.

Environmental commitments were consigned to the last two paragraphs of the lengthy communique issued at the close of the summit and consisted only of vague promises to create " sustainable economies".

The communique stated that the goal of fiscal stimulus packages would be to build "resilient, sustainable, and green recovery" and committed the G20 to " the transition towards clean, innovative, resource efficient, low carbon technologies and infrastructure".

It also offered renewed hope that an international deal on climate change will be reached at the UN's Copenhagen Summit in December, stating that: "We reaffirm our commitment to address the threat of irreversible climate change, based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, and to reach agreement at the UN Climate Change conference in Copenhagen in December 2009."

Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Ed Miliband, said that the deal marked the first time all major countries have collectively committed to achieving a deal at Copenhagen. "This provides an excellent platform for discussions at the upcoming Major Economies Forum," he added. "These are good outcomes, establishing the central role of climate change in economic policy even in the midst of this financial and economic crisis."

But green groups said that the deal had not gone far enough to secure specific commitments designed to accelerate the development of a low carbon economy.

Glen Tarman, chair of Put People First coalition of trade unions aand NGOs, said that while the G20 had made progress on some critical issues there were also "missed opportunities, especially on building a green economy".

His comments were echoed by Friends of the Earth's Executive Director Andy Atkins who accused G20 leaders of "short-changing the planet".

"The economic system and the global environment are on a devastating collision course - but despite pledging to build an inclusive, green and sustainable recovery little has been done to change direction," he said. "The world must seize the huge benefits of investing in green technologies and energy systems - this will slash emissions and create millions of new jobs around the world."

UK diplomats had pushed for stronger environmental commitments to feature in the final communique, including a pledge to spend a large chunk of the $5tr in global fiscal stimlus packages on low carbon projects. But the commitment was ditched after opposition from a number of countries, reportedly led by China, which is said to have objected to some of the proposed green language.

In related news, a global coalition of 124 institutional investors which collectively manage approximately $6.5 trillion in assets, issued an open letter to Barack Obama urging him to take a greater role in the UN's climate change negotiations, the latest round of which have taken place this week in Bonn, Germany.

The European Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC), the US-based Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR), and the Investor Group on Climate Change (IGCC) in Australia and New Zealand urged the president to push for a deal built around binding emission reduction targets and an expansion of the global carbon market.

"The new US administration has already shown its commitment to tackling climate change on the domestic front, but now is the time to extend this leadership to the international arena," said David Russell, co-head of responsible investment at institutional investor USS. "Investors need to see strong policy commitments on climate change, if they are to invest in a low carbon future."

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