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China’s modest goals

Group of 20 (G20)

The Group of 20 leading nations has generally supported UN climate change initiatives and recommendations. At its meeting in July 2016 in Chengdu, China, the G20 financial leaders said they encouraged all signatories of the Paris agreement on climate change to bring the deal into force as soon as possible. Despite China’s own modest goals, under the Chinese G20 presidency, finance ministers in 2016 called on all governments to implement financial commitments made under the Paris deal in a “timely” way and promised to continue working on climate finance in 2017. However, in March 2017, under German presidency, opposition from the USA, Saudi Arabia and others had forced deletion from the communiqué of any reference to financing programs to address climate change.


In many respects Europe has been a leader in promoting action on climate change, as set out in some detail above.

In March 2007 the European Council endorsed the European Commission’s Strategic Energy Review and agreed on a unilateral cut of 20% in EU greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, relative to 1990 levels. The previous commitment was 8% reduction by 2012. This required strengthening and extending carbon trading arrangements as well as deploying low- or zero-carbon technology. The European Council also endorsed the objective of making a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and said that it would commit to this 30% target if other developed countries committed to (unspecified) comparable reductions in emissions and the more advanced developing countries (e.g. India, Brazil, China) “contributed adequately according to their responsibilities and respective capabilities”. French President Chirac described the outcome as “one of the great moments of European history.”

The European Council also set a target of meeting 20% of EU energy needs from renewables by 2020, leaving individual countries to decide their own policies in such a way as to allow nuclear power as part of their energy mix to be taken into consideration in allocating individual country targets for renewables. The Council noted “the European Commission’s assessment of the contribution of nuclear energy in meeting the growing concerns about safety of energy supply and CO2 emission reductions” and it acknowledged the role of nuclear energy “as a low CO2-emitting energy source.” In the event the 2008 policy set was “20-20-20” – 20% reduction in CO2 emissions, 20% of electricity from renewables and 20% improvement in energy efficiency by 2020.

The European Commission’s 2030 Policy Framework for Climate and Energy in January 2014 moved away from major reliance on renewables to achieve emission reduction targets and allows scope for nuclear power to play a larger role. It is focused on CO2 emission reduction, not the means of achieving that, and allows more consideration for cost-effectiveness.