This past weekend, world leaders met in Japan for the 2019 G20 Osaka summit to discuss global issues such as climate change and women’s empowerment, along with traditional components, like trade and global economy. The G20 is comprised of 19 countries, along with the European Union. These nations represent more than 80 per cent of the global GDP and 80 per cent of climate change emissions.
During the summit, UN Secretary-General Gutteres addressed two ongoing international issues – the US-China trade war and the tensions in the Gulf, primarily between Iran and the US. Gutteres linked the tensions with their effect on sectors of global economic growth. On the Gulf, he stated that, “We have global warming, but we have also global political warming, and this can be seen in relation to trade and technology conflicts; it can be seen in relation to situations in several parts of the world, namely the Gulf.” The Secretary-General reiterated his support for the JCPOA, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, stating that it was essential for “stability.” As for the trade battle between the US and China, Gutteres stressed the importance of opening dialogue between the two leaders, stating that theirs was “probably the most relevant bilateral meeting that will take place.”
The Secretary-General’s main message throughout the summit was the need to accelerate climate action as the Secretary-General declared, “climate change is running faster than we are.” One key component of the climate action stressed by Gutteres is the need to make sure the global temperature does not surpass a rise of 1.5 Celsius degree by the end of the century, as cited in the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) report. Additionally, he emphasized the need to reach global carbon neutrality by 2050. The Secretary-General also outlined what would be his appeal for the UN’s September Climate Action Summit: “putting a price on carbon, ending subsidies to fossil fuels, [and] not accepting the idea that we still have an acceleration of the construction of coal power plants”. All of these measures are “absolutely essential to rescue the planet.”
Gutteres also spoke on the digital economy and referred to the high-level panel on the digital cooperation. He talked about the “huge impact” the panel’s report – The Age of Digital Interdependence — could have on the economy, and the potential transformation of the job market. If implemented correctly, Gutteres says it can “minimize the negative effects, and “optimize the positive effects of the fourth industrial revolution.”
As climate action is fundamental in achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, the Secretary-General asserted that the global leaders of the G20 summit, “need to do more, mobilizing their own internal resources, improving their governance, reducing corruption, implementing the rule of law.” Gutteres insisted that all of this was imperative to “create conditions for ‘harmony between humankind and nature.’” It is yet to be seen if the full gravity of the Secretary-General’s message made an impression at the G20 summit.