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G20 Leaders at Buenos Aires Leave Climate for Katowice

Brittaney Warren, Lead Researcher, Climate Change, G20 Research Group
December 1, 2018

On November 30, 2018, on the sidelines of the G20 Buenos Aires Summit the leaders of the BRICS countries of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa met. They released a media statement with 14 politically binding commitments. In the face of a divisive G20, the BRICS leaders committed to strengthen multilateralism. This centred on reforming the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the International Monetary Fund to promote inclusive growth. They also recommitted to implement the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change. One commitment is to bridge the global infrastructure gap, including building disaster-resilient infrastructure, reinforcing the BRICS development-focused agenda. No other commitments were made on any other subjects.

Thus, of the three themes of the Buenos Aires Summit, the BRICS club formally committed to only one, infrastructure for development, leaving out the future of work and a sustainable food future. This is more or less consistent with the substance of past BRICS commitments. Since its start in 2009 development has been a driving force behind BRICS cooperation. The second highest number of commitments the BRICS has made are development ones. This is followed by macroeconomic policy commitments at 33 and international institutional reform commitments at 26. The BRICS push for WTO reform has been taken up by the rest of the G20 in a draft of the communiqué.

On the other subjects of sustainable development and the Paris Agreement, less consensus was expected. G20 leaders will leave climate change to the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Katowice, Poland, scheduled to start immediately after the G20 Buenos Aires Summit. According to Sergio Bergman, the Argentine minister of environment and sustainable development, Argentina did not want a "G19," as happened at the 2017 Hamburg Summit.

Nonetheless, the final consensus communiqué saw the same G19 split, with the United States receiving a stand-alone paragraph reconfirming its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. The remaining countries that signed onto the agreement reaffirmed their commitment to its full implementation. The G20 also confirmed the BRICS club commitment to invest in climate-resilient infrastructure for the most vulnerable countries, particularly those in the Caribbean region. Those vulnerable countries will have to wait, however, for the Paris rulebook to be defined at Katowice to find out what, if any, real financial support will be mobilized to realize this commitment.

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