The World is Watching: Will G20 Countries Lead this June at the Earth Summit?

G20 Leaders at Rio.PNG

Three years ago, the Group of 20 countries pledged to phase out environmentally-harmful and ineffective subsidies. The leaders of these twenty influential countries have since made many other promises to deal with climate change and the range of global sustainability challenges, including at the recently concluded Clean Energy Ministerial. As countries meet this week to set the agenda for 2012, they should commit to showing leadership where it counts. This June, we need to turn pledges into real actions starting at the G20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, and continuing through to the Rio+20 Earth Summit (read here and here for ideas).

NRDC, with Stakeholder Forum and Road to Rio+20, recently launched the Earth Summit Watch – a country-by-country progress tracker of the ambition (or lack thereof) of preparations before we all meet in Rio.  The UN recently announced that 130 heads of state are already committed to attend Rio+20, but has not released their names, nor is there much information on how their governments are preparing for Rio+20. Therefore, we are gathering our own information on a handful of important questions from countries (“Will your head of state attend?” or “What new or scaled-up initiatives is your country preparing for the summit?”). Using these surveys, we have developed a map of where the world stands in getting ready:

Promising activities on the Race to Rio

We’ve seen a lot of activity already from a number of G20 countries. Germany partnered with Denmark and Spain to release a global renewable resource atlas to map solar and wind energy potential around the world. Italy and the U.S. recently announced the launch of Lighting India, a project to bring modern lighting to 2 million people by 2015 in affiliation with The Global Lighting and Energy Access Partnership (Global LEAP). The Clean Energy Ministerial concluded two weeks ago with a host of new partnerships on energy efficiency, renewable energy and energy access.

G20 countries are making unprecedented investments in clean energy.  The U.S. invested $48 billion in clean energy in 2011, up 42% from the year before. India’s 2011 investments rose 54% from 2010, and the EU in total invested over $92 billion in clean energy. These investments, coupled with massive price drops in renewable energy, will help forge new industries and create thousands of jobs and opportunities.

Will G20 countries be world leaders at Rio?

However, according to our surveys, only 6 out of 20 of these countries have confirmed that their delegations will be led by their head of state in Rio (just in Brazil, China, India, Italy, Japan, and Mexico). Currently, we only have information from 8 out of the 20 on plans for announcing specific initiatives during the conference. Even fewer have begun to really engage their publics about what’s at stake if this summit fizzles.

In these trying economic times, countries are looking to the G20 for not only support but true leadership. As the “premier forum for international cooperation on the most important aspects of the international economic and financial agenda,” what could be more important than charting a new course toward sustainable economic growth?

Let’s not miss this opportunity to deliver progress to put the world on a more sustainable path. The world is watching.