Series: What remains of the G20 Hamburg Summit?
One major goal of the German G20 Presidency was to promote the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are essential to addressing the challenges faced by the world. The outcome of the 2017 Hamburg Summit is not a breakthrough for sustainable development, but it does offer some opportunities for real progress.
Climate change mitigation within a faltering world order – setbacks avoided, breakthroughs postponed
The German Government had set itself challenging goals for the G20 Summit, developing an ambitious agenda for shaping an interdependent world. The fundamentals of this agenda had already been established when everyone was still expecting Hillary Clinton to succeed Barack Obama as President. But the new White House incumbent is a climate and cooperation sceptic. A man who sets himself up back home against the media, the scientific community and the judiciary, that is, against the entities that keep his power in check. And a man who is divisive on the international stage, favouring protectionism where it serves US interests, withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement and a reduction in contributions to the United Nations. A fickle world power that causes offence rather than working with partners to shape global policy. This is no coincidence.
At first glance, the communiqué of the G20’s Hamburg Summit is an ordinary piece of international diplomacy. However, as is often the case, context is key to assess its real importance. Two context factors defined this year’s negotiations of G20 leaders in the exhibition halls in the city center of Hamburg. Within the negotiation room, an unruly US president questioned a number of common positions that had already been adopted by the G20 in previous years.
I have been writing about the G20 for seven years. The G20 has evolved substantially over that time, with an ever-broadening agenda that now covers issues far beyond those envisioned in the first G20 summits in Washington and London over 2008 and 2009, when the G20 was at its peak as a globally influential governance body. As a result, and in order to stay on top of the expanded agenda, the trend has been towards greater reliance by G20 Ministers and Leaders upon lower-level officials and bureaucrats to both prepare and even draft the main G20 outcome documents – particularly the final communique.
Much of the criticism levelled at the Group of 20 (G20), the club of the world’s most economically powerful industrialised and emerging economies, is justified. The Hamburg summit will play host to high-level autocrats and, in many ways, its agenda is far removed from the needs and standards of a just, inclusive and sustainable global economy. Policy advisors still hoping for the gathering to deliver in some way are banking on an initiative supported by the EU countries and their civil societies in cooperation with several partners from the global South, an initiative designed to promote sustainability solidarity and participation.