Pressure is mounting on Australia to include discussion of climate change on the G20 agenda during its presidency.
Australia’s mission to use its leadership of the G20 to drive global growth is being well received, but there’s some international disquiet over its refusal to put climate change on the agenda.
However, French officials believe the issue will find its way into the final communique from the leaders’ meeting in Brisbane in November.
The French see Australia’s promotion of growth – and the decision at February’s meeting of finance ministers to set a specific global growth target – as fitting well with their domestic agenda.
But the Australian government has been unwilling to discuss climate change in G20 meetings, instead focusing on its growth target and investment and structural reforms, says Christophe Destais, the deputy director of French economic think tank CEPII.
He said the G20 is a highly political game that’s difficult to handle.
When France held the G20 presidency in 2011, the final communique had a specific section highlighting the need to pursue the fight against climate change.
The US emissary to the G20 Caroline Atkinson recently said addressing climate change was an important issue for world leaders, and International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde has urged Australia to continue to be a pioneer in the debate.
French media describes the Abbott government as climate-sceptical.
But officials believe there is room for Australia to include the issue in the G20 agenda without losing face at home.
It’s been noted the G20 working group on climate finance, co-chaired by France, has not been halted during Australia’s presidency.
Mr Destais said the G20 faces a dilemma about what should be included on its agenda now the global financial crisis is receding.
It was very easy to handle for the first two meetings in Washington and London because the world was in the middle of the financial crisis, he said.
After this the G20 had an existential problem: what is to be done in order to better co-ordinate world-wide policies while at the same time managing all the political side issues that are linked and emerging?
Some argue the economically focused G20 is the wrong forum to discuss climate change.
But others believe its status as the most important annual meeting of global leaders means it has the capacity to deal with vital global issues.