Conflict and Leadership
The G20 Has Considerable Global Responsibility in ‘More Resilience and Recovering Better’

There are more options for cooperation in light of the European Green Deal and the Paris Agreement that one can discuss that would be beneficial for Russia and the EU, writes Klaus Milke, Chairman of the F20 Steering Group.

The F20 Foundation Platform is a network of over 60 foundations from 21 countries that work with the G20 countries for the implementation of the UN sustainability goals and compliance with the Paris Climate Agreement. The platform was launched in Hamburg in 2017 on the occasion of the G20 summit and has now become an influential player in the G20 process.

 In this time of COVID-19 crisis F20 sees the need but also important opportunities for more transformative cooperation on climate and sustainability. Also between the EU and Russia on “More Resilience and Recovering Better” and in reference to the man-to-the-moon project of the EU, the "European Green Deal".

The Paris Climate Agreement from December 2015 during the last five years has changed the global debate for our common future not less than the Corona Crisis. Perhaps already even more. And also in many countries the 2030 Agenda of the United Nations from September 2015 with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) became more and more relevant for policy making and the mainstream developments.

Long term business strategies, real investments are more and more following the SDGs and climate goals. The quickly developing sustainable finance agenda shows very clearly: big financial actors and important parts of the financial markets have well understood. They all are in the boat to raise ambition for higher climate targets towards global carbon neutrality in 2050. 

The next climate summit COP 26 is a central cornerstone being the raising climate ambition COP (esp. towards higher midterm 2030 GHG targets). COP 26 – originally planned for this November in UK - is therefore considered to be the next most important climate summit after Paris. Now it is postponed to November of next year. But it is more needed than ever.

The IPCC 1.5° Special Report from 2019 has further changed the minds of many decision makers. And has kick-started the new and truly global climate movement of 
the younger generation. Reluctant political forces and CEOs have come under even more pressure – and start to react and reposition themselves. 

As a result of these developments, the EU experienced a climate vote in last elections for the EU parliament that produced a self-proclaimed Climate Commission, led by a conservative-social democrats grand coalition in the European Commission (with President Ursula von der Leyen and Vice President Frans Timmermans) quite similar to Germany. Since then the EU has significantly accelerated its climate policy speed. Mainly with proclaiming the European Green Deal (EGD) at COP 25 in Madrid in December 2019, calling it the EU’s "Man to the Moon" project. 

What is the essence of the EGD? – The EGD is mainly about making the EU fit for the great transformation of its economy and of its lifestyles. Fit for the transformation in order to reach what the EU and all countries subscribed to 2015 in the Paris Agreement: Not letting the world heat up more than 1.5 or well below 2 degree centigrade. Therefore, the main goals of the EGD are net-zero emissions - neutrality of emissions and sinks of greenhouse gases – by 2050 and second the 2030 goal of lowering GHG emissions by 2030 up to minus 50 or 55% below the 1990 level. For the EU these goals will not be that easy to reach. But still the Fridays for Future movement with millions of young people all over the EU demands more ambitious targets from the EU. 

Why is the EU’s EGD so relevant for other countries and mainly the neighbours of the EU as Russia?  

Very shortly: Raising EU climate targets for 2030-2040-2050 is a must and will come. As a consequence, tThe Emissions Trading System (ETS) has to be developed further and the CO2 price will rise further from the current 20 EUR per ton CO2 and more sectors need to be fully included into the ETS, like for instance aviation. But this also means: a Carbon Border Adjustment – some call it a border tax – is becoming more and more likely – which adds to the pressure in all other exporting countries outside the EU to introduce meaningful CO2 prices or similar measures. As another consequence of raising the climate targets, decarbonisation of the EU transport system will come faster – which means a decrease of oil use to almost zero by 2050 and maybe earlier.

And we see: The EGD is already somewhat echoed in other countries, e.g. California, South Korea, Norway, Morocco and Ukraine. 

Signals from other countries were positive before the Corona crisis and we have to see how they continue on transforming their economies (e.g. China, India, South Africa). 

Russia - the government and the non-state-actors - will probably very soon stand at a crossroads decision moment: Will Russia partner with the EU and other countries in this transition? Or will it largely shut down business relations with the EU and hope for a continued high-carbon pathway in other parts of the world? Many people in the EU, me included, are very worried about this latter scenario. 

That is why we need more transformative cooperation between Russia and the EU. With transformative I mean transformative for both economies. One example is switching Russian oil and gas exports to climate neutral hydrogen. Green hydrogen can become the oil and gas of the future. More and more experts and officials in the EU are currently discussing from where to import green hydrogen in the future. Russia is one important option. But Russia needs to position itself soon, if it wants to play a role. 

There are more options for cooperation in light of the EGD and the Paris Agreement one can discuss that would be beneficial for Russia and the EU. Cooperation on smart power grids or smart city technologies could be further options. 

I very much believe that the EU can become carbon neutral much easier and cheaper if it cooperates and has transformative trade relations with Russia. But this depends on the readiness of both sides. What is more: overall relations, unfortunately, have been better before. Which means that at this stage we have to test the water how to move forward. 

Foundations and philanthropists worldwide - also those being part of the international Foundations platform F20 - are aware of the negative effects of the unprecedented and deep Covid-19 crisis. They will try to be part of future oriented recovery measures.

They encourage decision-makers on all levels of the G20 process, in particular the G20 Sherpa and Finance Minister track, to adopt decisions and programs to build up resilience and to recover better from the current crisis. And the EU and Russia as part of G20 can make a difference to show up what is possible in transformative cooperation.

It must be clear and well understood, that mankind is able to combat the COVID-19 crisis by our national health services, ventilators or vaccines, but also by making our societies more resilient. 

It is also clear, that we can´t negotiate with injustice, nature and the planetary boundaries. The best medicines against inequity, poverty, pollution or the climate crisis are a global just transition and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda with the 17 sustainable development goals. 

We have to acknowledge in the earth system non-linear trends of biodiversity loss or temperature increase and it’s obvious that we can breach tipping-points of our national health and social systems too. 

So foundations have to take a stand and should try to be part of the solution.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.