A Reliable Framework for Transformation

Commentary by Svenja Schulze, Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, Germany

The G20 countries are responsible for 80 percent of global greenhouse emissions. They generate 85 percent of the global gross domestic product and account for the majority of investments worldwide. The G20 is the key to leading the international community onto a climate-compatible path.

Although the COVID-19 crisis is far from over, a growing number of G20 countries are committed to climate action playing a major role in their efforts for economic recovery. Awareness is building that action must be taken to avoid stranded assets and secure jobs for the long term. Governments must create reliable framework conditions for economic and technological transformation in their countries. The binding emissions targets under the Paris Agreement are most effective for this.

The European Union has set itself the goal of climate neutrality by 2050. How we live and build, how we move from place to place, what we eat and produce will then no longer generate more greenhouse gases than our environment can absorb. The current interim goal, 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 as compared to 1990, is not sufficient. The European Commission has proposed a new target of at least 55 percent, which I strongly support. The European Council will decide on this proposed target on 10/11 December. The Environment Council has already reached broad agreement on the European Climate Law.

There is a well-founded hope that resolute action by the EU will also set an example outside Europe. Many countries are also currently contemplating how they can achieve carbon neutrality by the middle of the century. Among the G20 countries, these include the EU and its member states, Canada, the United Kingdom, South Korea, South Africa, Argentina and Japan. And we look forward to the US rejoining the international stage with renewed commitment.

Should China follow through on its remarkable announcement of becoming carbon neutral before 2060, this alone would reduce the global temperature rise by 0.2 to 0.3 degrees, according to initial estimates. Now it is important that China backs up this international voluntary commitment with national measures and sets itself ambitious interim targets. The adoption of the next five-year plan in the coming year could lay the foundation, which would then have to be reflected in an ambitious Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) for China. We are eager to hear when China aims to hit peak emissions.

After the special summit on 12 December, which will be the climate policy highlight of 2020, the first ambition cycle will extend into 2021. Countries that have already submitted a new NDC in 2020 can still increase their level of ambition. Primary responsibility lies with the Italian G20 Presidency and the British COP/G7 double Presidency to keep up momentum until the G20 summit at the end of October and COP26 in November 2021. We must do everything in our power to support them in these efforts.

Allied voices from civil society are growing stronger by the day. In a number of G20 countries, climate change is now seen as one of the most serious international threats, and public support for climate action has seen strong growth. For example, 92 percent of Europeans think that greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced with the goal of making the EU economy climate neutral by 2050. This support must now be clearly reflected in political action. The G20 governments can build on the intensified activities of non-governmental actors like corporations, municipalities and social organizations. In this way, the G20 can lead the international community onto a climate-compatible path.

This article is a pre-publication from the next issue of the Global Solutions Journal, which will be published in January 2021 on the occasion of the beginning of the Italian G20 Presidency



Svenja Schulze (SPD) currently serves as Minister of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.

The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) is responsible for a range of government policies that are reflected in the name of the ministry itself. The ministry has been working over 30 years now to protect the public from environmental toxins and radiation and to establish an intelligent and efficient use of raw materials, to advance climate action and to promote a use of natural resources that conserves biodiversity and secures habitats.

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