G20 must follow through on green promises

03 April 2009 | News story

The G20, meeting yesterday in London, agreed with what IUCN and many others have been saying: the economic recovery must be inclusive, green and sustainable.

While long in sentiment, however, their green promises were very short in detail. The environment cannot be a footnote; it must be at the very heart of the recovery plan.

One dinner and one day is not much time for the leaders of the world’s largest economies to make decisions.

And they are to be commended for reaching agreement on a wide range of specific actions to shore up financial markets, enhance macroeconomic stability, promote investment, boost trade and maintain development aid targets.

But according to IUCN, much more needs to be done. Our natural infrastructure is fundamental to efforts to rebuild our economic infrastructure and this must be reflected in recovery plans.

“There is no doubt that the G20 has used the right words, but look closely and you see a business-as-usual approach,” says IUCN Deputy Director General Dr William Jackson. “Economic growth, financial markets, jobs and nature do not exist in isolation. Without prosperous natural environments, there is no hope for prosperous economies, societies and people. And the details in the overall G20 plan do not reflect this.”

On climate change

The G20 promised to “make the transition towards clean, innovative, resource efficient, low carbon technologies and infrastructure”.

G20 leaders also reaffirmed their commitment to address the looming threat of irreversible climate change and promised to reach agreement at the UN Climate Change negotiations in Copenhagen this December.

IUCN looks forward to continue working with G20 governments over the next eight months to make this statement a reality.

“G20 leaders have now forecast an agreement in Copenhagen,” said IUCN’s Chief Scientist, Jeffrey McNeely. “But only a comprehensive deal, particularly on stabilizing atmospheric greenhouse gas levels to less than 350 parts per million, will avoid the looming catastrophe of irreversible climate change.”

On development

The commitment of G20 leaders to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, maintaining development aid targets and supporting sub-Saharan Africa in particular is welcomed.

IUCN urges governments and development banks to ensure that stimulus packages for poor countries include clear priorities for sustainable natural resource use.

Investment must go into tackling the loss of biodiversity, restoring degraded lands and seas and protecting the services that nature provides such as clean drinking water and fertile soil.

“Governments and development banks must ensure they invest in the right things, with clear priorities and criteria,” adds Dr Jackson. “To achieve sustainable recovery and growth, investing in natural environments, as well as the people who manage and depend on them, is non-negotiable.”