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From COP21 in Paris to the G20 in Hamburg to COP23 in Bonn

Matthew McIntosh, G7 Research Group
August 1, 2017

Climate change was the most controversial topic of discussion at this year's G20 summit held in Hamburg, Germany, on July 7-8, 2017, with the Paris Agreement receiving significant attention. Although these discussions were supposed to advance the implementation of the 21st Conference of the Parties' (COP 21), the lack of support from the United States for the Paris Accord forced German host Chancellor Angela Merkel to push for a compromise on climate talks.

The Hamburg communiqué identified U.S. abandonment of COP 21 stating that the U.S. was still considering its international obligations. Yet the other 19 members committed to work towards the "full implementation" of the Paris Agreement, accentuating that the agreement is "irreversible." The G20 went further, creating the Hamburg Climate and Energy Action Plan for Growth. And despite U.S. president Donald Trump's announcement on June 1 that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris Agreement, legally leaving the accord will take at least three years.

The world is now looking ahead to COP 23 to be hosted by Fiji and held in Bonn, Germany, from November 6 to 17, 2017. As such, now is the time for greater climate leadership from the G20, especially Germany, France and the United Kingdom as each of these G20 states have fully complied with their recent G20 climate commitments and have continued to support COP 21. Strong multilateral work between these leading G20 members will help maintain the strength of the Paris Accord.

Additionally, U.S. withdrawal could see China emerge as the champion of the Paris Agreement, even despite China's inconsistent compliance with the G20's climate commitments. Indeed,  China no longer regards climate change as an argumentative tool used by western nations to repress Chinese development, but instead as an opportunity to compete on the international stage. This 180-degree turn is seen in China's 2011 green strategy in which it has earmarked USD$361 billion for the development of renewable energy by 2020.

Yet China still has a lot of progress to make as the next climate conference approaches. First, China's national plan is not ambitious enough to limit the increase of the global temperature to below two degrees Celsius, the core goal of the Paris Agreement. Second, even though China could exceed its commitment to peak carbon emissions a decade ahead of its 2030 deadline, COP 23 seeks to ensure that all countries work to accelerate climate actions before 2020.

China should therefore revise its nationally determined contribution to better align with the Paris Agreement target. Moreover, the Chinese government needs to accelerate its 2030 carbon emissions peak target to ensure that carbon emissions do not rise any higher past 2020.

By fulfilling these post-COP 23 objectives and by working multilaterally with Germany, France and the United Kingdom, China can further develop its leadership in the fight against climate change, helping the G20 to solidify the strength of the Paris Accord.

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Matthew McIntoshMatthew McIntosh is a researcher with the G7 Research Group and G20 Research Group based at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Trinity College at the University of Toronto. He is in his third year of undergraduate studies at Western University in London, Ontario, where he is studying political science.

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