ST. PETERSBURG, Russia, September 6, 2013 (ENS) – Transcending their disagreements over Syrian chemical weapons, the G-20 leaders managed to reach agreement on confronting climate change in two ways. They will phase down refrigerant greenhouse gases and phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.

In the St. Petersburg Declaration released today at the close of the summit, the G-20 leaders state, “Climate change will continue to have a significant impact on the world economy, and cost will be higher to the extent we delay additional actions.”

G-20 leaders

At the G-20 summit, from left: Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta, U.S. President  Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, back to camera, September 6, 2013 (Photo courtesy Government of Russia)

The G-20 leaders committed themselves to using the expertise and institutions of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer to phase down the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons, HFCs, potent greenhouse gases that are rapidly increasing in use for refrigeration and air conditioning.

In a statement on the outcomes of the G-20 summit, the White House called the commitment “an important step forward toward addressing HFCs.”

“Phasing down HFCs would yield enormous climate benefits, reducing as much as 90 gigatons of CO2 equivalent between now and 2050, or roughly two years of global greenhouse gas emissions at current levels,” the White House estimates.

At his news conference announcing the outcomes of the G-20 summit, host Russian President Vladimir Putin said, “We’ve affirmed a number of important principles in the energy sphere. First, it is necessary to ensure the transparency and predictability of the energy and raw materials markets. Second, it is essential to encourage the green growth and support the world community’s efforts to prevent climate change. Third, it is important to support the exchange of best practices in energy regulation.”

President Barack Obama and China’s President Xi Jinping agreed at their bilateral meeting Thursday to establish “an open-ended contact group” on HFCs under the Montreal Protocol to consider issues related to cost-effectiveness, financial and technology support, safety, environmental benefits, and an amendment to the Protocol.

The China-U.S. agreement reaffirms the two leaders’ commitment on June 8 in California to work together and with other countries through multilateral approaches that include “using the expertise and institutions of the Montreal Protocol to phase down the production and consumption of HFCs, while continuing to include HFCs within the scope of UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol provisions for accounting and reporting of emissions.”

During their bilateral meeting on the margins of the G-20 summit, President Xi said that since that June meeting “our two teams have worked closely together to implement a consensus we have reached.”

“The fifth round of the China-U.S. Strategic and Economic Dialogue produced bountiful results. Our mil-to-mil relationship continues to improve. … In my view, the China-U.S. relationship has maintained a sound momentum of development,” the Chinese leader said.

President Obama said, “As President Xi indicated, we had excellent meetings in Sunnylands earlier this year. And we agreed to continue to build a new model of great power relations based on practical cooperation and constructively managing our differences.”

“We’ve made significant progress on a range of issues, whether it’s cooperation on addressing climate change, expanded military-to-military consultations that ensure awareness and avoid potential conflicts or miscommunications,” Obama said.And we’ve had some extensive discussions through the Strategic and Economic Dialogue about how we can continue to grow the economy and give some momentum to global growth that creates jobs, prosperity, and balanced growth around the world.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin at his press conference announcing the outcome of the G-20 summit. (Photo courtesy Government of Russia)

Russian President Vladimir Putin at his press conference announcing the outcome of the G-20 summit. (Photo courtesy Government of Russia)

All the G-20 leaders agreed to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. Building on the commitment they made at the Pittsburgh G-20 Summit in 2009 to phase out these subsides, G-20 Leaders today agreed on the methodology for a new peer-review process of fossil fuel subsidies, an important step in combating climate change.

The International Energy Agency estimates that eliminating subsidies – which amount to more than $500 billion annually – would lead to a 10 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below business-as-usual by 2050.

As part of the St. Petersburg Declaration released today at the close of the summit, the G-20 leaders stated, “We reaffirm our commitment to rationalise and phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption over the medium term while being conscious of necessity to provide targeted support for the poorest.”

“We welcome the development of a methodology for a voluntary peer review process and the initiation of country-owned peer reviews and we encourage broad voluntary participation in reviews as a valuable means of enhanced transparency and accountability. We ask Finance Ministers to report back by the next Summit on outcomes from the first rounds of voluntary peer reviews. Recognising the importance of providing those in need with essential energy services, we ask Finance Ministers to consider, in conjunction with the relevant international institutions, policy options for designing transitional policies including strengthening social safety nets to ensure access for the most vulnerable.”

The G-20 leaders also agreed to support inclusive “green” economic growth. In the St. Petersburg Declaration they backed, “Further development, dissemination and implementation of the non-prescriptive, voluntary toolkit of policy options for inclusive green growth in the context of sustainable development, including a workshop with developing countries, and initiation of the G20 Dialogue Platform on Inclusive Green Investments for sustainable development and poverty eradication.”

The leaders restated their commitment to support the full implementation of the agreed outcomes under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its
ongoing negotiations.

“We strongly welcome the efforts of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to mobilize political will through 2014 towards the successful adoption of a protocol, another legal instrument, or an agreed outcome with legal force under the convention applicable to all Parties by 2015, during COP-21 that France stands ready to host.”

The G-20 leaders stated their support for “operationalization” of the Green Climate Fund, a new multilateral fund of $100 billion dollars per year in climate financing for developing countries that was agreed by countries at the 2010 UNFCCC conference in Cancun, Mexico.

But the leaders made no firm commitments to the Green Climate Fund at this meeting. Instead they asked their finance ministers to continue the work of building the fund and report back to at next year’s G-20 summit in Brisbane, Australia.

Established in 1999, the G-20 member countries are: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America plus the European Union.

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