Implications of the 2017 G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, for Climate Change, Green Finance and Sustainable Development Goals

Briefing Note

This Briefing Note explores the implications for climate change, green finance, and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the G20 Summit which was held in Hamburg, Germany, on 7-8 July 2017. On climate, the final encouraging result was a consensus among all countries except for the US to maintain strong support for implementation of the Paris Agreement and SDGs. The declaration “noted” the US intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and “use fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently,” but the other 19 countries stated that the Paris Agreement is “irreversible.” The 19 countries additionally agreed on the G20 Hamburg Climate and Energy Action Plan for Growth. On SDGs, the Summit issued a document “reaffirming” and “updating” the G20’s SDG Action Plan (the Hamburg Update). Three other major initiatives related to the environment were: the G20 Marine Litter Action Plan, High Level Principles on Combatting Corruption related to Illegal Trade in Wildlife and Wildlife Products, and the establishment of a Resource Efficiency Dialogue. Although the overall direction of the Hamburg Summit appears mostly positive, there were still major shortcomings. First, there were not many funding commitments on either climate or SDGs. Second, there was no discussion of alternative measures of economic prosperity beyond GDP, and the overall focus of the Summit was still on traditional economic growth and financial issues. Third, the separate Hamburg Action Plan does not highlight climate change or SDGs, and it puts significant emphasis on traditional economic growth issues. Thus, the G20 still has not consistently adopted sustainable development as its main organising principle. Finally, overall, the discussion of environmental issues was generally limited to climate change, marine litter, illegal trade in wildlife, and resource efficiency. The Hamburg Annual Progress Report on Development Commitments notes that of the 31 active commitments, “3 were now considered complete and 28 to be on track.” However, the report concluded that the actions taken by the G20 in the areas of environmental and social sustainability “are notable but do not seem sufficient to deliver the intended ambition.”