As environment ministers prepare to gather in Washington, DC April 18-19 and finance ministers do the same April 23, U.S. and Canadian environmental groups called today for President Barrack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper to make climate change a priority on the G20 agenda in Toronto in June.
In the letter to President Obama and Prime Minister Harper, groups from both nations assert that the steps needed to cool the planet and make the transition to a low-carbon economy can contribute to economic recovery in both countries and globally.  The groups noted that during the G8 and G20 meetings last July in L’Aquila and Pittsburgh, and in Copenhagen, world leaders committed to fight climate change, phase out subsidies for fossil fuels and support innovative mechanisms to generate climate finance for developing countries mitigation and adaptation efforts.
“We urge you to build on these commitments by putting climate on the agenda for the Toronto G20 meeting in June,” said the letter, signed by the leaders of 17 American and 8 Canadian organizations.
The groups called on President Obama, Prime Minister Harper, and other world leaders to follow through on their commitment to keep global average temperature rise from pre-industrial levels to well below 2° C. They also urged leaders to take these steps to address climate change and strengthen the economy:
    * Curb expansion of high-carbon intensity industries such as tar sands oil development.
    * Support innovative financing mechanisms to generate substantial new and additional public financial support for developing countries, as pledged in the Copenhagen Accord.
    * Take immediate action to phase out fossil fuel subsidies.
“Elimination of fossil fuel subsidies represents one of the most promising new and additional sources of climate finance,” said the letter. “During the Pittsburgh summit last September, G20 leaders committed to “phase out and rationalize over the medium term inefficient fossil fuel subsidies while providing targeted support for the poorest. Funds previously used to support the fossil fuel industries most responsible for greenhouse gas emissions should be redirected as a source for climate finance.  We are encouraged by the recent efforts in the U.S. to end a dozen tax breaks for oil, gas, and coal companies that total $36 billion over the next decade.  We call on the G20 to end tax breaks for oil, gas, and coal companies and to shift these resources to support clean energy development, forest protection, and adaptation to climate change in developing countries.”
“Given the growing momentum in the U.S. to pass comprehensive climate and energy legislation, now is the time for world leaders to incorporate climate financing into any and all strategic discussions moving forward,” said Joe Mendelson, director of global warming policy for the National Wildlife Federation.
“As host country for the G8 and G20 meetings, Prime Minister Harper has the opportunity to lead the global warming fight by putting this critical issue on the leaders’ agenda. Canadians want to see real action to cut global warming pollution. It would be foolhardy for the Prime Minister to allow these meetings to go ahead with no focus on the greatest challenge facing the planet,” said Rick Smith, executive director, Environmental Defence Canada.
The negotiating sessions next week in Washington play an important role in setting the agendas of the larger climate and economic conferences in the coming months. Both the Major Economies Forum called by the Obama administration and the G20 finance ministers meeting also mark the start of an intensifying schedule of global negotiating sessions on the related issues of climate action and economic recovery. Earlier this month the year’s first UN-sponsored climate negotiating session was held in Bonn. In June, heads of the world’s largest economies meet at the G20 summit in Toronto; they will meet again in November in South Korea. In late November, Mexico hosts the 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP16) in Cancun.
Another important development is UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon’s appointment of a High-level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing (AGF), co-chaired by UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.  The advisory group’s mandate is to explore ways to meet the commitment in Copenhagen by the US and other industrialized countries to mobilize $100 billion a year by 2020 in public and private sector finance for adaptation and mitigation activities in developing countries.
The Advisory Group, which had its first meeting in London on March 31 will present an interim report to climate negotiators in Bonn this June, and a final report by October to feed into the climate summit in Cancun.  Larry Summers, director of the White House National Economic Council, is the U.S. representative on the panel.
“President Obama, Prime Minister Harper, and other leaders have the opportunity and the responsibility to address both the climate crisis and the economic crisis,” said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists.  “The high-level meetings in Washington next week can play an important role in setting out an ambitious agenda for action at the leaders’ summits later this year.”
About U.S. Climate Action Network
U.S. Climate Action Network (USCAN) is the largest network of organizations focused on climate change in the U.S. USCAN’s mission is to support and strengthen civil society organizations to influence the design and development of an effective, equitable and sustainable global strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ensure its implementation at international, national and local levels. Learn more at usclimatenetwork.org
Contacts:
Keith Schneider, 231-920-0745, kschneider@climatenetwork.org
Rhys Gerholdt, 202-621-95216234, rgerholdt@climatenetwork.org
Jennifer Foulds, Environmental Defence Canada, jfoulds@environmentaldefence.ca
416-323-9521 ex.232, (cell) 647-280-9521