by Biena Magbitang | November 17, 2022| Published by ABS-CBN News | READ THE STORY HERE

BALI, INDONESIA – The G20 Media Center was set abuzz as members of the information desk announced the joint communique is ready for public view.

The Bali Leaders’ Declaration is now uploaded.

A draft communique seen by some the night before showed that G20 leaders will close their summit in Indonesia this week with a strongly worded statement against Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. But climate advocates have been waiting on bated breath as there were fears major economy leaders are backtracking on their pledge to limit global warming to 1.5C.

Hundreds of journalists stationed at the Bali International Convention Center scrambled to download the G20 text only to find a 1,186-page document — complete with the 52-point joint communique and annexes outlining Ministerial Meetings and Working Group files.

As expected, the tensions in Ukraine dominated the text with leaders rejecting an ‘era of war’. But climate watchers also heave a sigh of relief after G20 leaders reaffirmed their promise to “resolve to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C”

The communique reiterates the push to phase down coal-fired power and calls for progress at COP27 on ‘loss and damage’ which compensates poor and vulnerable countries for climate harms – a key issue this year.

Igniting climate talks

For climate scientist and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) author Dr. Rosa Perez, the declaration “echoes the pursuits of many negotiators” in Egypt.

Analysts, scientists, and campaigners also hope the G20 text can breathe a new life in this year’s climate talks.

“That the G20 recognized the need to cut emissions and limit warming to 1.5 should provide impetus to the governments gathered at COP27 to agree on a similarly strong outcome,” Bill Hare, CEO of Climate Analytics, told ABS-CBN News.

“The positive signals from the G20 summit should put wind in the sails of the climate talks in Egypt, which are entering their final days,” Ani Dasgupta, President and CEO of World Resources Institute said in a statement.

This is echoed by Julia Behrens, Director of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung’s Climate and Energy in Asia Project, “I welcome the communique as hopefully a push at the right time to advance the stuck and slow negotiations at COP and appreciate the mention of just transition,”

Just rhetorics?

But some are sounding the alarm.

Climatologist and IPCC author Lourdes Tibig said that theoretically there’s nothing wrong with the communique.

“However, note the words “welcome”, “recognize” and “committed to”- they are all rhetorics. Where are the action words? We are in a climate emergency and yet, these are what the G20 say? They invite Parties to scale up (mitigation) and (adaptation) ambition? How about them?” Tibig argued.

“If you read between the words, you know what I mean,”

This observation was shared by Greenpeace Southeast Asia Executive Director Yeb Sano who used to head the Philippine delegation to the United Nations climate conference.

“Long on rhetoric and short on instruction, G20 leaders in Bali could have closed the gap between the urgent needs of world’s most climate vulnerable communities and countries and the actions of the richest and most polluting. They chose not to.”

For Sano, the bloc simply fell short of making any progress.

“G20 countries went to the COP in Egypt and put on a performance before getting down to the serious business of business-as-usual politics in Bali. It is time they accepted that you can either protect the fossil fuelled macroeconomic model or the planet, for only one of which we have alternatives. It is time they woke up and smelt the loss and damage!” he said.

Concrete actions

Climate activist Marinel Ubaldo said the commitments made by the G20 leaders “are still very broad.”

“We need to continue holding these leaders accountable for the present and past pledges that they have yet to deliver,” she added.

For Joshua Kurlantzick, senior fellow for Southeast Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations, “ most of the major powers are not either equipped or ready to make such commitments,”

“There are no real promises here to enforce any of the promises made. Just promises – and a talk of carbon pricing but not commitment to it. Without real enforcement these actions won’t be taken,” he said.

Fossil fuel phase out

The statement released by think tank Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development also did not mince words in calling the communique “cowardice” for diluting “its commitment to achieving global net zero emissions.”

“It did not pinpoint the root of the problem: our fossil fuel dependence… It is too late to phase out one fossil fuel at a time and too little room to only phase down unabated coal power – which means the Bali communique still provides loopholes for the proliferation of coal technologies that claim to tone down emissions. Phasing out all fossil fuels, including fossil gas, is what is required,”

As COP27 enters its home stretch, countries have yet to resolve differences to agree on a climate deal. And while the G20 climate declaration is a welcomed development to some, advocates are still ramping up pressure on leaders to provide concrete actions to the climate crisis.