Hopes high as US-China meet in G20 summit; non-member PH seen to benefit

Biena Magbitang, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 15 2022 03:44 AM

BALI, Indonesia – Side events flooded the eve of the opening of the 17th Group of 20 (G20) summit here but all were overshadowed by the meeting between Joe Biden and Xi Jinping, leaders of the world’s superpowers, US and China.

All it took was a handshake between the two heads of state to buoy hopes that the leaders of major economies gathered on the Indonesian island will collectively agree on steps to address global crises, among them climate change and sustainable energy transition. Washington and Beijing are the world's top two emitters.

“The global community is breathing a sigh of relief that President Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping are restarting joint efforts to tackle climate change. There is simply no time left for geopolitical fault lines to tear the United States and China away from the climate negotiation table,” Ani Dasgupta, President and CEO of World Resources Institute said in a statement.

The G20 summit taking place on November 15 to 16 coincides with the second week of the COP27 climate talks in Egypt but United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has traveled to the resort island to heap pressure on G20 nations to work together to slow global warming.

“I am convinced that we need to break the dramatic geopolitical divides and as I said in the COP27, there is no way in which we can address the climate challenge that we face without the cooperation of all G20 members and in particular without the cooperation of the two biggest economies, the United States and China,” said Guterres addressing ABS-CBN News at a press conference at the Bali International Convention Center.

"Action – or inaction – by the G20 will determine whether every member of our human family has a chance to live sustainably and peacefully, on a healthy planet," he added.

‘Backtrack’ fears

Last week, Guterres also urged G20 leaders to take the lead in climate action, warning that humanity is on a ‘highway to climate hell’.

“We are in the fight of our lives and we are losing … And our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible,” he told world leaders at the opening of COP27.

The UN chief’s urgent calls are amid fears the G20 leaders are backtracking on their climate pledges. Last year, they committed to the key Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Concerns however arose after the G20 climate talks in August failed to agree on a joint communique. Instead, the members had backed the non-binding ‘Bali Compact’ which details a plan to speed up a clean energy transition.

Some experts remain hopeful but they are cautiously optimistic.

For Fabby Tumiwa, Executive Director of the Institute for Essential Services Reform, “the Bali Compact and Bali Energy Transition roadmap could ignite a strong Global South collaboration”.

“Although we know the chance is slim, the (G20) Presidency still has two days to reach an agreement,” he added.

“The reality is, geopolitical situations and each country's own agenda could hinder a meaningful message from the G20,” said Giovanni Maurice Pradipta, Policy Advisor at Germanwatch.

Joshua Kurlantzick, senior fellow for Southeast Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations, meanwhile echoes the fears of some advocates, said that the G20 "probably will release a communique but it may be watered down."

G20’s success to benefit PH

The G20 is composed of Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union.

Indonesia, this year’s host and the only Southeast Asian nation in the bloc, will hold the Chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) next year, while India, another Asian nation will be given the G20 Presidency.

That is why Tumiwa believes the Philippines, despite not being a member of the group, will benefit should G20 leaders agree to “transform their energy systems” which could not just reduce the risk of climate change but open up investment opportunities for the region
 as well.

Civil society organizations also acknowledge the role of the summit for the Philippines. 

For Avril de Torres of the Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development, the country “must make its effort to pressure the summit’s attendees towards decarbonization and the access of most vulnerable peoples to resources that will move forward an equitable energy transition.”

They plan to gather on Wednesday to urge global leaders to deliver solutions to the climate crisis.