Triggering A Green Recovery At The G20 Summit

Written by Alexandra Kougentakis, a Center for American Progress Action Fund Fellows Assistant, and Brad Johnson.

At the G20 Summit in London on April 2, the 20 largest economies in the world, from the United States and the European Union to Russia and China, will discuss a response to the global financial crisis. Using a study first presented at the Center for American Progress, Germany will argue that a coordinated effort by the G20 to fight climate change will be essential to fighting the global recession. “Towards a Global Green Recovery: Recommendations for Immediate G20 Action,” by Ottmar Edenhofer of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PICIR) and Nicholas Stern of the London School of Economics (LSE), notes that the G20 has the power to “trigger a global green recovery”:

As G20 countries account for roughly three quarters of global gross national product, energy consumption and carbon emissions, their combined efforts constitute a critical mass to trigger a global green recovery.

As the nation with the largest economy in the G20 and with one of the top greenhouse gas emission levels, the United States has a particular responsibility to act. The recently passed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act devotes one of every ten dollars to making the kinds of green investments recommended by the Center for American Progress’s Green Recovery report and this new Potsdam-LSE report, according to an advance copy acquired by the Wonk Room.


The authors note that “the costs of action are likely to be much less than the costs of inaction.” Stern, who concluded in 2006 that a failure to address climate change could lead to “a 20% reduction in consumption per head, now and into the future,” has warned that more recent findings show his report actually underestimated the threats of climate change.

This new report accordingly states that “the risks from any given global temperature increase are greater than previously thought.” Even as “emissions are increasing at a faster pace,” “the planet’s capacity to sequester carbon in natural sinks is decreasing.” Therefore, “seven strategic areas for G20 action” are identified to build a global green recovery that will address short term economic decline while emphasizing a long-term strategy of sustainable growth:

  1. Implement across-the-board energy efficiency improvements
  2. Convert to low carbon economic infrastructure through physical upgrades
  3. Support clean-technology markets in renewable energy and energy efficiency
  4. Initiate flagship projects to improve technological knowledge and increase innovation
  5. Enhance international research and development (R&D;) efforts, including international collaborative projects
  6. Incentivize investment in low-carbon growth by setting a global price of carbon
  7. Coordinate financial and climate change mitigation efforts

Specific recommendations include:

— “Ensure that new infrastructure investments are ‘climate-proof,’ i.e. that they take into account the impacts of unavoidable climate change”

— “Review and amend national procurement guidelines with the aim of going ‘carbon-neutral’”

— “The development of a G20 Strategic Energy Technology Plan . . . which could serve to streamline R&D; efforts globally”

— “Appoint ‘Energy and Climate Sherpas’ to coordinate follow-up meetings and ensure that momentum in developing policies is maintained”

Edenhofer and Stern recommend “linking regional schemes” to limit global warming emissions in the manner of the International Climate Action Partnership, a 2007 coalition of 15 countries and regions that have already implemented or are actively pursuing the implementation of carbon markets through mandatory cap and trade systems. Interlinked regional carbon markets can “pave the way for the negotiations on a global climate agreement, which will take place in Copenhagen next December.”


The world’s fossil-fueled economy is now sagging dangerously even as its continuation will make climate change unmanageable and catastrophic. By making strong investments in climate-friendly sectors, “Towards a Global Green Recovery” declares that “a global green recovery can deliver immediate and long-term economic benefits, cut the risk of dangerous climate change, reduce energy insecurity and competition for natural resources, and prepare the ground for a successful post-Kyoto agreement in Copenhagen in December 2009.”