After this week’s major IPCC report, the next big international forum on climate change will be the G20 meeting on November 15 and 16 in Brisbane, Australia, which will bring together the largest economies and the biggest greenhouse gas emitters. The meeting will represent the final days of Australia’s turn as head of the powerful G20 group — a stretch that has not been climate-friendly as Tony Abbott’s government has persisted in pushing anti-climate policies and elevating fossil fuel interests both domestically and internationally.
The stage is being set this week as the Brisbane airport has vetoed a billboard asking for climate change to be added to the G20 conference. The Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) decided to ban the billboard purportedly because it was too political. While airport spokeswoman Leonie Vandeven said the corporation’s policy was to refuse advertising that “has political intent,” BAC’s chairman Bill Grant also serves as a director on the board of New Hope Group, a coal mining, oil and port operation company. The airport said its chairman’s position on a coal mining company’s board had nothing to do with it rejecting the advertisement.
The billboard would have featured an Australian farmer who lost $25,000 worth of grapes in one day last year when temperatures reached 115 degrees Fahrenheit at his vineyard. It would have been part of the #onmyagenda campaign launched this week to encourage people to tweet at G20 leaders and ask them to make climate change a more prominent item.
The G20 #onmyagenda campaign includes Oxfam, Greenpeace, 350.org, World Wildlife Fund, and five other organizations. A similar billboard featuring firefighters concerned about bushfires has been erected in another part of Brisbane.
Last week Australia’s average high temperature of 97.5°F broke the record for the hottest October day since record-keeping began in 1910. 2013 was Australia’s hottest year ever recorded since 1910.
On Monday, Dermot O’Gorman, chief executive of the World Wildlife Fund, said he was surprised that the BAC had refused the message.
“There is no solution to climate change without G20 members on board,” O’Gorman said. “These countries are responsible for around 80 percent of global emissions and more than 80 percent of global economic activity.”
This week, Nicholas Stern, chair of the Grantham Research Institute on climate change and the environment at London School of Economics and president of the British Academy, penned an editorial imploring Abbott to put climate change at the front of the G20 agenda. He says that while the G20 is the most effective forum for the discussion of transition to a low-carbon economy, “local politics of a country of less than 25 million is being allowed to prevent essential strategic discussions of an issue that is of fundamental importance to the prosperity and well-being of the world’s population of 7 billion people.”
He says that while Turkey, which will play host to the G20 next year, is likely to adopt a more “enlightened approach to the issue,” the timing of its summit at the end of 2015 will be too late to have significant influence on the crucial United Nations climate changes summit in Paris in December 2015.
“World leaders must show that they have understood the evidence presented by the IPCC, by acting decisively to ensure the world avoids catastrophic climate change,” states Stern.
Frank Jotzo, director of the Center for Climate Economics and Policy at the Australian National University said on Monday that the majority of G20 countries want to discuss climate change.
“The biggest players — China, the United States and Europe — are all pursuing an active climate change policy in their countries,” he said. “Among developed countries, Australia is the most vulnerable to future climate change impacts, and so should have the greatest national interest in a strong global response to climate change.”