• G20 stimulus package has 'short-changed the planet'
• Fears that greenhouse emissions will continue to rise
The $1.1 trillion stimulus package agreed by G20 leaders yesterday risks locking the world into a high-carbon economy in which greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, environmental groups have warned.
Campaigners agreed that the summit's biggest loser was the fight against climate change, despite a positive response from global financial markets to the announcement of financial aid. At the summit, prime minister Gordon Brown reiterated support for low-carbon economic growth and tackling climate change.
"In mobilising the world's economies to fight back against recession we are resolved to ... promote low-carbon growth and to create the green jobs on which our future prosperity depends," he said. "We are committed to ... working together to seek agreement on a post-2012 climate change regime at the UN conference in Copenhagen in December."
"Once again world leaders have short-changed people and the planet," said Friends of the Earth's executive director Andy Atkins. "The economic system and the global environment are on a devastating collision course – but despite pledging to build an inclusive, green and sustainable recovery little has been done to change direction."
British government officials lost the battle to include a commitment to spend a substantial share of the economic stimulus on low-carbon recovery projects. The economist Lord Nicholas Stern has recommended that 20% of fiscal stimulus spending should be on projects to address climate change.
The communique's comments on the low-carbon economy and climate change negotiations were limited to two paragraphs at the end, and made no specific commitments.
It said: "We agreed to make the best possible use of investment funded by fiscal stimulus programmes towards the goal of building a resilient, sustainable, and green recovery. We will make the transition towards clean, innovative, resource efficient, low-carbon technologies and infrastructure ... We reaffirm our commitment to address the threat of irreversible climate change, based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, and to reach agreement at the UN Climate Change conference in Copenhagen in December 2009."
Britain's environment secretary, Ed Miliband, said that "the very fact that this was part of the discussions – and the commitment to Copenhagen is part of that too – is a sign of that much-needed commodity, momentum".
But the UN's top climate official called for action, not words. "It's always useful to reiterate the commitment; better to actually do it," said Yvo de Boer. He added: "This is a good example of the major economies of the world coming together and developing a common understanding."
Greenpeace's executive director, John Sauven, said: "Tacking climate change on to the end of the communique as an after thought does not demonstrate anything like the seriousness we needed to see. Hundreds of billions were found for the IMF and World Bank, but for making the transition to a green economy there is no money on the table, just vague aspirations, talks about talks and agreements to agree."
Diplomatic sources said China led the opposition to green language in the final text.
Mark Malloch Brown, the foreign office minister for Africa, Asia and the United Nations, said there were fears, particularly among emerging economies, that environmental requirements might act as an impediment on trade and the speed of recovery.
"The buzzword 'low-carbon recovery' triggers fears of protectionism being introduced through the back door," said Lord Malloch Brown. The concern is that countries would impose import tarriffs on goods from nations with lower environmental standards. Brown said another problem was that negotiating officials often had narrow responsibilities – trade for example – and were reluctant to work outside of them. "They want to hold the line against what they see as mission creep," he said.
Officials stressed that the objective of the G20 summit was to agree to an economic strategy. But campaigners say that if tough measures to fight global warming are not agreed soon, the consequences will be far worse than the global financial crisis.
David Norman, the World Wildlife Fund's campaigns director, said:
"Any argument that climate change should be moved down the political agenda until the current economic crisis is addressed is incredibly shortsighted. Finance and the climate are inextricably linked, and if we don't address climate change now, we will certainly pay later."